Wednesday 2 March 2005, by Migreurop
Though internment camps have very diverse features (see map) they also have certain common characteristics. The first one is their occupants: citizens of third countries that have committed no other offence than crossing or trying to cross a border without papers. A second characteristic of camps is that «illegal migrants» are considered and managed as a group, instead of being treated as individuals with a personal history. Thirdly, it seems impossible to ensure the respect of fundamental rights in these places. There is no freedom of movement. Basic rights to asylum, to family life and private life as well as minors’ rights are not guaranteed, while inhumane and degrading treatment is often perpetrated.
The internment of foreigners in Europe is not aimed (primarily) at punishing the foreigners. Instead its goal is to demonstrate to the receiving society that migrant populations, which must be controlled, are efficiently managed). It is a kind of tacit contract between State and Society, through which State guarantees the security of its citizens. This is the legitimization of camps. Internment is part of a series of measures that are referred to as "common migration and asylum policies" and aim at subcontracting the control of entry in the Union territories to the border states of Europe.
Nowadays, border controls and the fight against illegal immigration are central to European immigration and asylum policies. Before September 11th 2001, the question of immigration was treated on the same level as criminality and drug trafficking. Today it is clearly associated with the terrorist threat. More and more, the migrant is depicted as the enemy and "war" vocabulary is often used to describe the situation and to act against it: military equipment for controls at sea, high technology, walls and barriers, camps and collective expulsions. In this climate of "war" towards migrants, internment of foreigners is a logical response that is also applied to asylum seekers.
With such a policy, the European Union chooses to protect itself from asylum seekers instead of protecting them. Therefore, the new European standards based upon the "bogus asylum seekers" notion, make access to asylum procedures even more difficult and contribute to lower the level of protection. Detention of asylum seekers appears as a proper answer to the "threat" of the increasing number of asylum seekers.
European projects increasingly mention the possibility of detaining asylum seekers in camps located outside the European Union. This "externalisation" or "subcontracting" applies not only to asylum but also to the protection of borders. The aim is to make them more and more impenetrable pushing them out of their physical materialisation. "Externalisation" is not only based upon visa policy, a privileged instrument of "remote police". "Externalisation" is also central to the relations between the European Union and third countries, forcing them to cooperate in the fight against illegal immigration. Morocco is a good example of this policy. The European Union finances the control of Moroccan borders in order to fight illegal immigration to Europe. It is a way to transform this country into a "European border guard".
Whatever the functions of the camps - containing the flux of migrants coming to Europe, organising the expulsion of irregular migrants or detaining asylum seekers - camps are a part of the mechanism excluding those designated by the European Union as a "risk" or as an "enemy". They are the materialization of a security approach to migration to the detriment of the fundamental right of movement.
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