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Germany Revisits African Asylum Centers

DW staff (sms)September 29, 2004

German Interior Minister Otto Schily presented his plan to create refugee centers in Africa to evaluate asylum petitions on Wednesday, ahead of an EU meeting on the subject.

Schily wants the EU to help set up refugee processing centers in AfricaImage: AP

According to Schily's plan, refugees in Africa would not be given the same status afforded by German law to asylum seekers in Europe, while those deemed not to be at risk would be sent back to their native country, with only exceptional cases being offered the possibility of admittance to EU states, the German newspaper Die Welt reported Wednesday.

While political critics in Schily's Social Democratic Party are waiting to hear what he has to say when he presents the proposal to a parliamentary committee on Wednesday, members of junior collation party, the Greens, aren't wasting any time voicing their opposition to the plan.

"There has to be a different answer than Schily's," Green Party leader Katrin Göring-Eckardt told the newspaper. Her party wants an enforceable, individual asylum law and said in a report that Schily's plan is impractical and not in accordance with German law.

Cap Anamur vor Sizilien
The German minister's plan calls for dealing with refugees before they reach Europe's shoresImage: AP

Human rights organizations are also against the minister's plan which calls for the establishment of centers to evaluate petitions for would-be Africa refugees before they set off for Europe.

"The idea of safe third states (in Africa) would make it nearly impossible for refugees to receive asylum in Europe," Wolfgang Grenz of Amnesty International said. "It contradicts the fundament of international refugee laws."

A unified European asylum system will be high on the agenda when the EU's 25 interior ministers meet in the Netherlands on Thursday. There is still debate about whether the EU should set up centers in Africa to process immigrants and refugees. In Italy, one of the countries most heavily targeted by illegal immigrants, the government has already begun bilaterial negotiations with Libya about such a center.

The EU's interior ministers will also discuss how Europe can improve cooperation with the outside countries that could be involved in a shared EU asylum and immigration policy as well as the fight on terror.