The recent mass arrival of refugees and migrants to Europe has brought with it a growing recognition of the need for a new approach of distinguishing between economic migrants and asylum seekers; an approach which would allow for efficient identification of those in need of international protection and thus potentially dissuade them from undertaking a life-threatening journey across the Mediterranean Sea.
A concept which has been more and more widely discussed at different forums provides for the establishment of processing centres (hotspots) in the countries of departure and/or transit countries which meet a number of requirements and agree to host such centres. A number of hotspots were established in Greece and Italy in 2016; however, in order to reach them, over 4 000 people lost their lives last year. Several hundred have already drowned in the Mediterranean Sea since the beginning of this year.
The main concerns linked to the possible establishment of hotspots outside Europe are of a legal and practical nature and include the issue of responsibility for such centres, jurisdictional responsibility for processing, resettlement of recognised refugees, the problem of rejected applicants, and impact on countries which will host the centres. Of utmost concern is the question of ensuring real access to these centres for potential refugees.
The Parliamentary Assembly in its Resolution 2147 (2017) on “The need to reform European migration policies” has called on the European Union to explore possibilities for the establishment of hotspots outside Europe. The Assembly is well placed to ensure that a human rights dimension is integrated in any discussion on legal and practical requirements for extra-territorial processing. It should examine this issue and make appropriate recommendations before any decisions are taken.