Laboratories of Forced Emigration

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - While the EU is sealing itself off by fortifying borders, including in North Africa, it is establishing a system of "concentric circles" of refugee camps, write Berlin's government advisors in a recent analysis on the German-European policy of warding off refugees. In the future, "EU refugee policy" will most likely be characterized by the "synergy of border fortifications, camps and quotas," according to the analysis published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). Since some time, the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (Frontex) has been considerably enhanced. The EU Commission has called for increased deployment of drones and satellite surveillance systems to seal the borders. Admission quotas would de facto eliminate the right of asylum for individuals. Above all, the EU is establishing a system of camps in "concentric circles" extending from the EU's center of prosperity all the way to North Africa and Syria. These camps can "easily" be transformed into "detention centers," warns the SWP, making reference to the detention "hot spots" in Greece. These "hotspots" had recently placed the EU in direct conflict with aid organizations, the United Nations and the Pope. Detention centers for refugees, built with EU financing, also exist in Libya and Turkey.

Rapid Return Intervention

The deportation deal with Turkey, pushed through by Germany, demonstrates that "future EU policy will be characterized by the synergy of border fortifications, camps and quotas," according to a recent analysis by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). The fortification of the EU's external borders is rapidly progressing. Since its inception, the number of employees at the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders (Frontex) has increased ten-fold and its budget from six to 254 million Euros. Now, Frontex can even initiate its own deportations. An "EU Action Plan," passed last September, provides for "setting up an independent Frontex Return Office, as well as numerous Rapid Return Intervention Teams under Frontex' authority." According to the EU Commission, the European border surveillance system EUROSUR should "support the protection of the borders by deploying drones, satellite systems, and high resolution cameras." Beyond those increasingly comprehensive measures to seal the EU off, the SWP expects that "solutions based on quotas," similar to the deportation deal with Turkey - for every refugee Turkey accepts back, another refugee may enter the EU from Turkey - would "in fact introduce refugee admission ceilings."[1] This would definitely mean the end of the right of asylum for individuals.

Concentric Circles of Camps

But above all, as the SWP points out, the camps, with their varying functions, are playing "a growing role in the EU's refugee policy." They represent an "image of concentric circles." "The camps in the cities and communities of EU member countries form the innermost circle," explains the SWP, referring to the facilities for the centralized accommodation of refugees. "The new facilities in the border regions" of EU countries form "the second circle," which "facilitate a speedier identification of those not requiring asylum, as well as their deportation." In Germany, these "reception centers" are located in Bamberg and in Manching (near Ingolstadt). In the meantime, not only are they housing newly arrived Southeast European refugees with no perspective of obtaining asylum, because they come from so-called safe nations of origin, but also refugees, particularly Roma, who have been living in Germany for years, according to the Bavarian Refugee Council. They have been torn out of their social settings, "bunked down here in close quarters, and palmed off with non-cash, lowest quality handouts" - with the ultimate objective being to "massively raise the pressure to induce them to emigrate." Children are regularly affected. "The child's welfare seems to be of little concern." "Isolation in camps" prevents the refugees from having "contact to volunteers." Even "access to counseling" is "seriously impeded."[2] The "reception centers" are increasingly becoming "laboratories of forced emigration," in which the refugees are "systematically prevented from exercising their rights and defending their interests."[3] The Bavarian Refugee Council has initiated a petition to close these detention centers.[4]

Europe's Humanitarian Crisis

The SWP notes that alongside the two internal circles, two outer circles have been established. "the hotspots and transit centers, located in the peripheral member countries along the EU's external borders, form the third circle," the SWP paper explains. The EU's detention "hotspots" on the Greek islands have recently provoked unusually sharp reactions. They have placed the EU in direct conflict with not only prominent aid organizations, but also with the United Nations. In open protest, the UNHCR suspended, to a large extent, its cooperation inside the camps.[5] During his visit of the EU refugee detention camp Moria on Lesbos, over the weekend, Pope Francis also raised his voice in opposition to the EU's warding off refugees, expressing his "hope" that "the world" will respond "in a way worthy of our common humanity." Europe is confronting the "worst humanitarian disaster since the Second World War."[6]

Isolated and Mishandled

"The current and planned refugee camps outside the EU" form "the fourth circle," according to the SWP. This refers, for example, to camps in Turkey, where refugees are being detained prior to deportation. Amnesty International reports that in Turkish detention centers some of which have been built with EU aid, refugees are not only being held with no contact to the outside world but are also being mishandled. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) However, refugees in Libyan detention camps are suffering under much worse conditions. Recently, militias standing guard killed four refugees with machineguns, during their desperate attempt to escape, and wounded twenty others.[8] German Chancellor Angela Merkel had declared that Berlin wants to begin to "cooperate" with Libya, along the lines of the deportation deal with Ankara.[9] "Currently, extraterritorial camps in a conciliated area of Syria are in discussion," reports SWP.

From Camp to Detention Center

The SWP also notes, "it should be considered that camps can easily evolve into detention centers." For example, "the hotspots in Greece, which were initially conceived as open camps" but have been, in the meantime, "converted into closed facilities." Alongside Greek detention "hotspots," the camps in Turkey and Libya are simply internment facilities.

Grave Consequences

This is grave. Already "the detention of asylum seekers in Greece has raised the question of human rights," reminds SWP. It is "unclear, whether in closed facilities applicants for asylum will have access to adequate legal counseling and the opportunity to appeal a negative decision." "It is just as unclear, how long their incarceration will last." In addition to humanitarian aspects, it should also be considered that "political radicalization can result" in the camps "due to a lack of perspectives." "The camps could also be misused for recruiting combatants." Finally, the foundation of the modern refugee system of protection is in jeopardy. "The elaboration of the processing system for refugees, as is guaranteed by the UNHCR, is reliant not only upon the contents of the Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees," explains SWP, "but also on the national practice of those countries" implementing the convention - or not. The philosopher Giorgio Agamben considers that, under the pretext of a state of emergency, these camps are being used to suspend rule of law, thereby ultimately ushering in a permanent state of despotism. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[10]) In Europe, this takes place in four concentric circles extending from the Middle-European center of prosperity all the way to the EU's neighboring countries.

[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden aus: Steffen Angenendt, David Kipp, Anne Koch: Grenzsicherung, Lager, Kontingente: Die Zukunft des europäischen Flüchtlingsschutzes? SWP-Aktuell 30, April 2016.
[2] Balkanlager Manching und Bamberg schließen! www.fluechtlingsrat-bayern.de.
[3] Neue Kritik an Rückführungseinrichtungen. www.br.de 02.02.2016.
[4] Balkanlager Manching und Bamberg schließen! www.fluechtlingsrat-bayern.de.
[5] See The European Solution (II).
[6] "Heute war es zum Weinen". www.domradio.de 17.04.2016. See Das Leiden des anderen.
[7] S. dazu Die europäische Lösung.
[8] See Von Lagern umgeben.
[9] Merkel will Flüchtlingsabkommen mit Libyen nach Türkei-Vorbild. www.zeit.de 08.04.2016.
[10] See Massenabschiebung als Modell and Die Erfindung der Lager.