Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2009-02-03-Speech-2-324"

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"− Mr President, I am grateful for the opportunity to address you on the issue of the situation in the immigration and detention centres situated in the European Union, of which you have highlighted two in particular, i.e. Mayotte and Lampedusa. I am very aware of the close interest you have shown in these centres, of the various visits which some of you have made, and of the concerns you have expressed about the conditions in some of them. Honourable Members will be aware that, in the specific case of the French overseas territory of Mayotte, Community law does not apply. With regard to the second category – other third-country nationals who have unlawfully entered the territory of a Member State – the competent authorities of the Member States are entitled to detain those falling into this category prior to the adoption of a return decision, and/or with a view to facilitating its enforcement. Detention may prove to be the only option in cases where it is necessary to seek identification of third-country nationals without travel documents. Until now, the legislation and practice regarding detention in the Member States has varied considerably. The recently adopted European Parliament and Council Directive on common standards and procedures for returning illegally staying third-country nationals has introduced specific principles and rules on detention, and so goes some way to establishing a common legal framework in this area. This directive clearly states that detention for the purposes of removal may be used only where less coercive measures cannot be applied in a particular case and only on specific, very limited grounds. Furthermore, the directive provides that detention shall be for as short a period as possible, shall require a decision in writing with reasons in fact and law, and shall be subject to judicial review at regular intervals. It should also be stressed that the directive provides for clear upper limits of detention and the grounds on which – in limited specific cases – a detention period may be prolonged, but not longer than a maximum term. On the conditions of detention, the directive makes clear that detention shall take place as a rule in specialised detention facilities – or, in any case, away from ordinary prisoners – and that the rights of the detainees – especially those of vulnerable status including minors and families – shall be observed. As far as the return of illegal immigrants is concerned, the recently adopted European Parliament and Council Directive on common standards and procedures for returning illegally staying third-country nationals is already in force. Its provisions now have to be transposed by Member States into their national law within a deadline of two years. This overall legal framework underlines our strong commitment to ensuring that third-country nationals who are held in detention for the purpose of removal are treated in a humane and dignified manner, and that their fundamental rights are fully respected. It also, through the most recent legislation, sets commonly agreed standards on return policy. This framework is not only in line with the principles I set out at the beginning of my statement, but actually gives them legal force. Our asylum and migration policy is thus rooted in the rule of law. It ensures respect for human rights and for the dignity of the individual. I should like to begin by underlining two fundamental principles which lie at the heart of today’s debate. The first is the need, in the case of third-country nationals requiring international protection, for full compliance with the commitments which we have given, as enshrined in various international instruments. The second is that we respect fully the human rights and the dignity of migrants and members of their families. We are all very aware of the pressure resulting from migrants entering the European Union, as well as those seeking asylum here. This pressure is particularly great along the Union’s southern and eastern borders. We have responded by developing, over the last 10 years, an effective EU asylum and migration policy. However, the significant increase in the level of arrivals underlines the need for this policy to be strengthened and further developed. We need to do this internally in order to establish our own common standards and rules in the area of asylum and migration, but we also need to act externally, in partnership with countries of origin and transit, in order to manage migration flows more efficiently. All parties stand to gain by such an approach. The development and shaping of an EU asylum and migration policy depends on your input too. I am grateful to Parliament for its positive contribution and I am sure that we can work constructively on further developing this important policy area. You have specifically raised the situation on the islands of Mayotte and Lampedusa. We should take care to distinguish between the two types of migratory flows in these two cases. The migratory flows affecting Lampedusa and Mayotte can be characterised as mixed ones: some of the third-country nationals concerned have claimed international protection, others certainly fall into the category of economic immigrants. Regarding the first category – those who claim international protection – I would draw your attention to the existence of minimum standards for the protection of asylum seekers, set out in Directive 2003/9/EC, which was adopted in 2003. This Directive has already been transposed into the national law of the Member States and it is for the Commission to ensure that the provisions set out in this Directive are properly and fully applied. In December 2008, the Commission presented to the European Parliament and to the Council a proposal to amend and update this directive. Since the codecision procedure applies here, the European Parliament will be fully involved in the negotiations on this new proposal. The Council will shortly begin consideration of this new proposal and looks forward to working closely with you."@en1

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