A leaked joint policy note prepared by German and French governments strongly affirms the intention to further limit access to protection in Europe by curtailing procedural guarantees in the CEAS. The policy note lays out a plan for a “crisis mechanism”, to operate in times of “mass influx” of refugees.

The policy note lays out ways to overcome current legal obstacles preventing the EU from replicating the EU-Turkey statement, described as a “game changer in the Eastern Mediterranean”, with other non-EU countries. France and Germany therefore propose to remove human rights safeguards for those arriving in the EU, by removing material standards of return and appeal possibilities, amounting to the possibility to remove everyone entering the EU irregularly. They also suggest establishing a mechanism that would allow admissibility decisions to be taken by other Member States’ legal experts in the country “affected by the mass influx.”

While the proposal argues that current safeguards on the safety of non-EU countries are too high, the definition of the “safe third country” concept in the Commission proposal for an Asylum Procedures Regulation, has been highly criticised by ECRE for lowering protection and undermining fundamental refugee law principles.

The note seems to break away from previous opposition on the part of several stakeholders in France towards an approach centred on returns to third countries. Germany had already supported plans for lists of safe countries and stronger cooperation with neighbouring states in a March 2016 note issued together with Italy. At the moment, Germany’s list of safe third countries only includes the countries applying the Dublin system, while France does not apply the “safe third country” concept at all.

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