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Extra-territorial processing of asylum claims and the creation of safe refugee shelters abroad

Reply to Recommendation | Doc. 14773 | 05 December 2018

Committee of Ministers
Adopted at the 1330th meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (28 November 2018). 2019 - First part-session
Reply to Recommendation
: Recommendation 2135 (2018)
1. The Committee of Ministers has carefully examined Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2135 (2018) on “Extra-territorial processing of asylum claims and the creation of safe refugee shelters abroad”. It has transmitted the recommendation to the Steering Committee for Human Rights (CDDH) and to the European Committee on Legal Co-operation (CDCJ) for information and possible comments.
2. The Committee of Ministers remains acutely aware of the dangers faced by migrants and refugees in their efforts to reach Europe, not least from human smugglers and traffickers. It also acknowledges the potential benefits, but also complexities, that extra-territorial processing of asylum claims can bring, even as an exceptional and limited way of granting protection. In this context, it has brought Resolution 2227 (2018) to the attention of member States.
3. With regard to paragraph 2.11 of Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 2135 (2018), the Committee of Ministers recalls that the personal scope of the European Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees is limited to refugees who are resident in the territory of a contracting party and so, in principle, excludes persons who might be granted refugee status elsewhere and before becoming resident. It also does not apply to persons granted other forms of international protection.
4. The Committee of Ministers notes that before considering whether or not work should be undertaken to revise the European Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees, further analysis would be required in order to ascertain whether new international standards are required to address the issues raised by the Parliamentary Assembly, whether there is political support among member states to develop new standards, and if so what form they should take (e.g. revision of existing instruments or adoption of new instruments). Furthermore, it notes that the Convention in question pre-dates the European Union and has only been ratified by 23 member States, two of which have suspended its application. In the light of these considerations, the Committee of Ministers does not consider at present that there are any compelling reasons to modify the European Agreement on the Abolition of Visas for Refugees.
5. With regard to paragraphs 2.1.2 and 2.2 of the Recommendation, the Committee of Ministers would inform the Assembly that following the Secretary General’s Report on the review of Council of Europe conventions and the Committee of Ministers’ decisions of 10 April 2013, the Committee of Legal Advisers on Public International Law (CAHDI) carried out an assessment on the practical importance of the European Convention on Consular Functions (ETS No. 61). Following this work, the CAHDI concluded that Convention was of limited practical relevance and that States preferred to have recourse either to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (1963) which suited better for solving problems or eventually to bilateral agreements. It saw no necessity to draft amendments or additional protocols to supplement the Convention. In June 2016, the Committee of Ministers took note of the findings of the CAHDINote in this regard.
6. Finally the Committee of Ministers considers it relevant to recall the important work carried out by the Council of Europe regarding the issue of processing of asylum applications, whether through instruments adopted by the Committee of MinistersNote or in co-operation with UNHCR, the European Union, civil society and other international actors.Note