Open letter at the occasion of the vote in the German Parliament on 17 June 2016
13 June 2016 – The planned classification of Algeria, Morocco and Tunesia as so-called ‘safe countries of origin’ must be prevented. This is what Amnesty International and PRO ASYL demand in an open letter to the Chief Ministers of the German federal states (‘Länder’).
Dear Chief Ministers of the Federal States,
On 17 June you will decide in the upper house of Parliament (Bundesrat) whether Germany will in the future condone grave human rights violations in Algeria, Morocco and Tunesia. It is up to you to prevent that these three countries are classified as ‘safe countries of origin’ and that the human right to asylum is further undermined.
The German Constitutional Court provides clear criteria for such a classification. These are the basic questions, to which you should reply now: Are human rights respected in the three Maghreb States? Is there governmental persecution of certain groups of persons? During the legislative process, Amnesty International and PRO ASYL several times pointed to the problematic human rights situation in the three countries: use of torture, oppression of the political opposition and persecution of homosexual, bisexual and transgender persons.
No, human rights are not respected in the Maghreb States. And yes, their governments persecute certain groups of persons. For example in Tunesia: in December 2015, because of their homosexuality, six men were condemned to three years of prison and five years of a subsequent ban from their home town. In order for their homosexuality to be ‘proved’, they were forced to undergo an anal examination. This is inhuman treatment and equivalent to torture. Only after international protests were their prison sentences reduced to one month in spring 2016 and the ban cancelled. In their daily lives, gay and lesbian people remain unprotected. In 2015, a lesbian woman was four times attacked by men, beaten up and injured on her neck with a knife. When she reported the attacks to the police, she was warned that she could be arrested for homosexuality.
Algeria, Morocco and Tunesia are therefore not ‘safe countries of origin’. In spite of that, the relevant draft law was adopted in Parliament (Bundestag) and is now ready to be voted upon in the upper house of Parliament (Bundesrat). Thus, the German government and the Parliament have disregarded the clear criteria of the Constitutional Court. You as representatives in the Parliament’s upper house (Bundesrat) have the important task of implementing a rule of law corrective. How many violations of human rights must a state commit in order not to be considered a ‘safe country of origin’? If the Maghreb states are considered safe, a red line within the rule of law has been overstepped. Further states will follow. Even Turkey is supposedly a ‘safe country of origin’ according to the EU Commission, in spite of well-known and obvious human rights violations.
For asylum seekers from ‘safe countries of origin’ such a decision has grave consequences. They are threatened with faster deportations, work bans, as well as the factual limitation of their right to ask for asylum as they do not receive an appropriate asylum procedure, which is impartial and endowed with full rights. An adoption of the law would also give a disastrous foreign policy signal. Germany must not trivialize and ignore grave human rights violations in other countries based on political calculations. If it did this, the German government would weaken everyone in these countries who stands up for human rights, and it would legitimize grave violations against international human rights standards.
Dear Chief Ministers of German Federal States, your decision will show whether human rights and constitutional rights are still playing a role in Germany’s asylum policies.
Amnesty International and PRO ASYL therefore call on you as Chief Ministers of Federal States to stop the draft law in Parliament!
Selmin Çalışkan, Günter Burkhardt
Secretary General of Amnesty International, Managing Director of PRO ASYL
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