Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.
The report, authored by Green MEP for London Jean Lambert and approved by 321 votes to 246 on 15 December 2004, called on EU states to develop a uniform process for assessing asylum applications and strongly rejected the idea of refugee camps in North Africa.
The vote comes against a background of increasingly tough rhetoric from European states towards asylum seekers. In October the German and Italian governments floated a plan to create large holding camps in North Africa to process would-be migrants to Europe. This idea has been condemned by human rights organisations and refugees’ groups like ECRE and UNHCR and was firmly voted down by the European Parliament.
The Lambert report welcomed two recent communications by the European Commission, one calling for the ‘enhancement of the protection capacity of the regions of origin’ and the other focused on creating a ‘more efficient common European asylum system’. The latter is an attempt to end the situation in which European Member States have wildly divergent criteria and procedures for assessing asylum claims. The likelihood of a Chechen refugee receiving asylum in the Slovak Republic, for example, is thin, but should that person manage to cross the border to Austria the chances improve greatly. The report called for standards to be levelled up and deplored the tendency for Member States to harmonise their practices to the lowest common denominator.
Currently assessment procedures are often complicated and lengthy. The report recommended that asylum seekers be subject to one process, with a right of appeal, determining whether an applicant is eligible for asylum status or, if not, to subsidiary protection (a guarantee that they will not be sent back to a country in the grip of a crisis).
The European Parliament also backed a plan to ‘front-load’ the decision making process, meaning investing in better-trained immigration officials and more reliable information gathering. This includes a new initiative to monitor failed applicants who are returned to their country of origin, a controversial measure which countries like Britain are not likely to embrace. When asylum seekers are deported states make no subsequent attempt to check that the judgement was correct, a situation which some see as convenient for states keen to ‘clear the backlog’ of asylum applications. But Jean Lambert told MEPs that ‘it is appalling that someone’s life should depend on an opinion which was never tested for its veracity’. She used the example of Ramzi Isalaam, a homosexual Algerian who is facing the prospect of deportation from the UK on the basis of outdated and sketchy information.
The other main thrust of the report stressed the need to greatly increase support to asylum seekers in their region of origin, both for humanitarian reasons and to try to prevent the desperate scenes of people risking their lives to reach the territory of the EU.
There is enthusiasm in European circles for ‘resettlement’ programmes whereby vulnerable refugees in dangerous areas are identified and offered sanctuary without having previously applied for it. These programmes are common in Australia, the US and Canada but are relatively new to Europe. Some fear that states could use this initiative to further create a false distinction between ‘genuine’ and ‘bogus’ asylum seekers, emphasising compassion in resettling vulnerable refugees while clamping down on asylum applicants. But the European Parliament was explicit that neither resettlement nor greater protection in the regions of origin could exempt states from their obligations to asylum seekers, and that any expense should not be taken out of existing development budgets.
The Lambert report was passed with the support of Lambert’s Green/European Free Alliance group, the Socialists, the Liberals, some of the conservative EPP and the left GUE group. The GUE, made up of parties such as Sinn Fein and Italy’s Rifondazione Comunista, has 41 seats in the Parliament, compared to 42 Greens/EFA, 88 Liberals, 202 Socialists and 268 conservatives. Lambert calculated that gaining the backing of the GUE was more important than attempting to secure the complete support of the conservatives and accepted five GUE amendments that made the report rhetorically more radical.
The whole package sees Parliament in alliance with the European Commission against the Council of Europe. ‘It is fair to see this vote as the Parliament standing up for the rights of asylum seekers in the face of the Council’, Jean Lambert said. ‘Parliament’s emphatic vote against the idea of refugee camps in North Africa sends a strong message that should kill off the idea, at least at the European level, although it will still be possible for states to establish bilateral programs’.
The vote came ahead of European Council discussions on asylum policy, and International Migrants Day on December 18. The timing was intended to exert maximum pressure on the Council. Although a European Parliament vote to adopt a report has no binding legislative effect, it does hold a moral force as the expressed view of the only democratically elected European body.
Tom Palmer, aka Agent Kingfisher, was the 'messiah' of London's squatting scene until his death last year. But who was responsible for his fate? MI5, late capitalism or simply a drug overdose? Matt Broomfield investigates.
'Docs Not Cops' write that we must resist attempts to make our NHS any less universal
Louis Mendee explains the real human costs of climate change for the global south.
From climate change to automation to demographic shifts, Mathew Lawrence explains the challenges our economy will face in the coming decade.
Fifty years after the Abortion Act, women are still dying from being denied basic services, write activists from Feminist Fightback
We need to tackle the patronising ideology that lets Tory think-tanks sneer at social tenants, writes Emma Dent Coad
Acid Corbynism allows people to imagine a future beyond the paltry offerings of capitalism, writes Keir Milburn
'We wanted to use a shared love of the beautiful game to stand in solidarity with those living under occupation', writes Kate Hadley.
Priti Patel's shady deals are business as usual. Enough is enough, writes Eleanor Penny
Boris Johnson is a local disaster and a national embarrassment. He must go, writes James Clouting
Labour Party laws are being used to quash dissent
Richard Kuper writes that Labour's authorities are more concerned with suppressing pro-Palestine activism than with actually tackling antisemitism
Catalan independence is not just ‘nationalism’ – it’s a rebellion against nationalism
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte argue that Catalonia's independence movement is driven by solidarity – and resistance to far-right Spanish nationalists
Tabloids do not represent the working class
The tabloid press claims to be an authentic voice of the working class - but it's run by and for the elites, writes Matt Thompson
As London City Airport turns 30, let’s imagine a world without it
London City Airport has faced resistance for its entire lifetime, writes Ali Tamlit – and some day soon we will win
The first world war sowed the seeds of the Russian revolution
An excerpt from 'October', China Mieville's book revisiting the story of the Russian Revolution
Academies run ‘on the basis of fear’
Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) was described in a damning report as an organisation run 'on the basis of fear'. Jon Trickett MP examines an education system in crisis.
‘There is no turning back to a time when there wasn’t migration to Britain’
David Renton reviews the Migration Museum's latest exhibition
#MeToo is necessary – but I’m sick of having to prove my humanity
Women are expected to reveal personal trauma to be taken seriously, writes Eleanor Penny
Meet the digital feminists
We're building new online tools to create a new feminist community and tackle sexism wherever we find it, writes Franziska Grobke
The Marikana women’s fight for justice, five years on
Marienna Pope-Weidemann meets Sikhala Sonke, a grassroots social justice group led by the women of Marikana
Forget ‘Columbus Day’ – this is the Day of Indigenous Resistance
By Leyli Horna, Marcela Terán and Sebastián Ordonez for Wretched of the Earth
Uber and the corporate capture of e-petitions
Steve Andrews looks at a profit-making petition platform's questionable relationship with the cab company
You might be a centrist if…
What does 'centrist' mean? Tom Walker identifies the key markers to help you spot centrism in the wild
Black Journalism Fund Open Editorial Meeting in Leeds
Friday 13th October, 5pm to 7pm, meeting inside the Laidlaw Library, Leeds University
This leadership contest can transform Scottish Labour
Martyn Cook argues that with a new left-wing leader the Scottish Labour Party can make a comeback
Review: No Is Not Enough
Samir Dathi reviews No Is Not Enough: Defeating the New Shock Politics, by Naomi Klein
Building Corbyn’s Labour from the ground up: How ‘the left’ won in Hackney South
Heather Mendick has gone from phone-banker at Corbyn for Leader to Hackney Momentum organiser to secretary of her local party. Here, she shares her top tips on transforming Labour from the bottom up
Five things to know about the independence movement in Catalonia
James O'Nions looks at the underlying dynamics of the Catalan independence movement
‘This building will be a library!’ From referendum to general strike in Catalonia
Ignasi Bernat and David Whyte report from the Catalan general strike, as the movements prepare to build a new republic
Chlorine chickens are just the start: Liam Fox’s Brexit trade free-for-all
A hard-right free marketer is now in charge of our trade policy. We urgently need to develop an alternative vision, writes Nick Dearden
There is no ‘cult of Corbyn’ – this is a movement preparing for power
The pundits still don’t understand that Labour’s new energy is about ‘we’ not ‘me’, writes Hilary Wainwright
Debt relief for the hurricane-hit islands is the least we should do
As the devastation from recent hurricanes in the Caribbean becomes clearer, the calls for debt relief for affected countries grow stronger, writes Tim Jones
‘Your credit score is not sufficient to enter this location’: the risks of the ‘smart city’
Jathan Sadowski explains techno-political trends of exclusion and enforcement in our cities, and how to overcome this new type of digital oppression
Why I’m standing with pregnant women and resisting NHS passport checks
Dr Joanna Dobbin says the government is making migrant women afraid to seek healthcare, increasing their chances of complications or even death