Hot Returns bleiben in der Praxis EMRK-widrig

In seinem Urteil N.D. und N.T. von letzter Woche hat die Große Kammer des Europäischen Gerichtshofs für Menschenrechte eine Verletzung des in Art. 4 4. Zusatzprotokoll der Europäischen Menschenrechtskonvention verankerten Kollektivausweisungsverbots durch Spanien abgelehnt. Daraus den Schluss zu ziehen, die Praxis der sog. hot returns (unmittelbare Abschiebungen ohne individuelle Prüfung direkt an der Grenze) sei vom EGMR gutgeheißen worden, ist angesichts der Presseerklärung des EGMR dazu verständlich aber falsch. Die Praxis der hot returns war und bleibt rechtswidrig.

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The Elephant in the Room

The ECtHR’s Grand Chamber judgement N.D. and N.T. v. Spain may be perceived as a referral of two migrants from illegal to legal pathways of entry, two migrants who were not in need of protection. Those celebrating the judgement for this outcome miss its unsettling implications for the effective guarantee of the principle of non-refoulement.

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Der Elefant im Raum

Man kann das Urteil N.D. und N.T. gg. Spanien der großen Kammer des EGMR so sehen, dass hier zwei auf illegalen Wegen angekommene, nicht schutzbedürftige Migranten auf legale Zugangswege verwiesen wurden. Wer es dafür feiert, übersieht die unvertretbaren Implikationen, die das Urteil für die effektive Gewährleistung des Refoulement-Verbots hat.

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A Restrictionist Revolution?

The immediate response to the ECtHR’s N.D. & N.T.-Judgment on ‘Hot Expulsions’ at the Spanish-Moroccan Border was shock and dismay – but the decision can also be read differently: as defined by a series of inbuilt ambiguities that combine restrictionist tendencies with dynamic elements, which are bound to cause heated debates of both principle and practice in the coming years.

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A Painful Slap from the ECtHR and an Urgent Opportunity for Spain

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights shockingly endorses a practice which opposes the core principles of International Law and the protection of fundamental rights. This decision repeals a previous ECtHR judgement of 2017 which had condemned push-backs and which Spain had asked to be referred to the Grand Chamber. But all hope is not lost: The Spanish Constitutional Court will rule on the “rejections at the border” provision in the near future and has the chance to uphold Spain’s international legal obligations.

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“Unlawful” may not mean rightless.

Article 4 of Protocol No. 4 ECHR is short. Its title reads “Prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens”, its text reads: “Collective expulsion of aliens is prohibited.” It comes as a historical disappointment that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in its decision in the case N.D. and N.T. v. Spain from 13 February 2020 distorts this clear guarantee to exclude apparently “unlawful” migrants from its protection. The decision is a shock for the effective protection of rights in Europe and at its external borders.

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The ECtHR as a drowning ‘Island of Hope’?’ Its impending reversal of the interpretation of collective expulsion is a warning signal

The outcome of the case ND and NT v. Spain currently pending before the Grand Chamber may determine the future course of the Court in other migration policy cases. It will show whether the ECtHR still deserves its title as an ‘island of hope in stormy times’ or whether this island is drowning under the pressure of some of its Member States.

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Collective Expulsion and the Khlaifia Case: Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

The European Convention on Human Rights forbids member states to expulse foreign citizens collectively. Does this mean that they have to conduct individual interviews with refugees before they send them back? Last year, a chamber of the ECtHR, in a case concerning Tunisians landed in Lampedusa in 2011, had concluded that it does. Now, the Great Chamber has reviewed this decision, considerably narrowing the scope of the collective expulsion ban.

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Taking refugee rights seriously: A reply to Professor Hailbronner

Reactions to the proposed “refugee swap” between the EU and Turkey have been predictably absolutist. On the one hand, most advocates have opposed the draft arrangement, asserting some combination of the right of refugees to be protected where they choose and/or that a protection swap would clearly breach the ECHR’s prohibition of “collective expulsion” of aliens. On the other hand, Professor Hailbronner argues against any right of refugees to make their own decisions about how to access protection, believes that refugees may be penalized if arriving in the EU “without the necessary documents,” suggests that it does not matter that Turkey is not relevantly a party to the Refugee Convention, and confidently asserts that there is no basis to see the prohibition of “collective expulsion” as engaged here. As usual, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

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Legal Requirements for the EU-Turkey Refugee Agreement: A Reply to J. Hathaway

There are many open questions and objections against the EU-Turkey deal on an agreement whose details are yet to be negotiated to manage the Syrian refugee crisis. In particular on the reciprocity part: could the agreement as an easily available tool by Turkey to blackmail visa liberalization and progress in the EU Accession negotiations? How will the EU make sure the proper treatment of all returnees? How is the resettlement of refugees from Syria to the EU (and to Germany) going to take place? James Hathaway on this blog has listed three legal requirements for the agreement to be legal. In my view none of these are likely to block an agreement.

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