[From the Introduction]
For years the European Union and its member states have been strengthening control mechanisms at the EU’s external borders. Most significant are the joint operations of border police and military personnel under the aegis of the EU border agency, FRONTEX. Forced return at the external borders without any system in place that allows for the identifi cation of persons in need of protection, and the denial of access to a fair refugee determination procedure, have become a problem of increasing importance and relevance. There is also the lack of transparency and democratic control of what is going on at the borders. The current discussion on these issues is heavily infl uenced by judicial and political arguments and not by the migrants’ experiences and voices.
Against this background, the Jesuit Refugee Service Europe has set up the “Observatory” project to draw attention to the consequences of the EU’s policies of closing the borders to persons in need of protection and putting the responsibility of dealing with these persons onto the transit states, especially in Northern and Western Africa.
We have conducted interviews with migrants who are trapped in Algeria and Morocco to give a voice to the victims of “Fortress Europe”. Their testimonies are both telling and informative.
The main part of the research for this booklet was conducted in 2010, before the outbreak of the “Arab Spring”. In despite of all political events and developments and the infl ux of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who have fl ed the violence in Libya since January 2011 and have tried to fi nd a safe place in neighbouring countries, the situation in Algeria and Morocco – as regards granting protection and respecting human rights – has not essentially changed. The situation for such persons in these countries remains precarious.
The testimonies and information herein show that in Algeria and Morocco no national asylum procedure is in place. While the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) conducts a form of screening procedure, recognition as a refugee does not lead to the enjoyment of the rights enshrined in international legal instruments. Instead, refugees are often treated as irregular migrants and face the danger of deportation back to their countries of origin and into the hands of their persecutors.
Refugees, asylum seekers and most irregular migrants in these countries are referred to as “stranded migrants”. The term is often used to describe persons who are “unable to return to a country of nationality or former residence for legal, or intractable humanitarian or logistical, reasons”. 1 In the cases described in this booklet, another element is added: the persons cannot move on in order to escape the situation in the countries of transit because they are denied access to Europe. Consequently, they are “stranded”.
These stranded migrants in Algeria and Morocco share the same dreadful situation. They are denied access to basic social rights and services and live in constant fear of being detained and deported. Even if they have already stayed in these countries for several years, they lack any prospects and the chance to improve their lives.
This situation in Algeria and Morocco is a consequence of border control measures introduced by the EU and its member states. JRS is using this publication to call on every decision maker in the EU and its member states to immediately take the necessary steps in order to change policies so that migrants in need of protection are given access to it.
JRS is very grateful to all who shared their experiences and personal stories with us. The names of migrants referred to in this booklet are not their own in order to protect their identities.
We dedicate this publication to the thousands of men, women and children who have lost their lives at the closed borders of Europe.
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