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buchtipThe deportation machine: Europe, asylum and human rights

Liz Fekete


Deportation targets put lives at risk The first pan-European study of deportation of asylum seekers has been published by the London-based Institute of Race Relations. And it shows how the setting of targets for removals by the EU and member states has resulted in a clear and shameful pattern of human rights violations.

Documentation of IRR press release.

The deportation machine: Europe, asylum and human rights (Price Euro 10.-- plus Euro 1.50.-- postage and packing, 80 pages) is available from or phone +44 (0)20 7833 2010/ +44 (0)20 7837 0041.


The author of the report, Liz Fekete, commented, "This is not about the failings of individual deportation officers but about an unaccountable system based on institutionalised brutality and an apparent contempt for international human rights standards. Governments that set targets for deportation seem to view asylum seekers - including torture victims, vulnerable children and those severely traumatised by war - as some sort of unwanted commodity to be packaged and despatched out of Europe. The EU Deportation Programme is a juggernaut. If we allow it to continue unchecked, it will violate all basic human values."

Citing over 200 detailed case studies, IRR researcher, Liz Fekete, shows in The deportation machine: Europe, asylum and human rights how opportunist political campaigning puts the lives of asylum seekers at risk. Across Europe the agenda is being set by right-wing anti-immigration parties; it is being followed through by national governments.

The IRR"s research highlights how target-driven deportation policies:

- institutionalise brutality by legitimising the use of force in removals, often in violation of domestic law vis a vis powers granted to deportation officers. The harsh methods of control and restraint used to enforce removals have led to the deaths of eleven asylum seekers, mainly from suffocation. There have been countless injuries, ranging from those associated with prolonged periods in handcuffs to severe brain damage and loss of sight.

- remove protection from refugees fleeing conflict and violate humanitarian law intended to protect the traumatised and the severely ill, as laid out in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Refugees from war are being targeted for deportation despite the immense difficulties and human rights concerns attached to their removal, and the fact that such removals violate the non-refoulement principle of the Geneva Convention.

- undermine the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires that the child"s best interests be paramount in executive and judicial decisions and actions. Deportation officials, in prioritising families for deportations, are increasingly placing children at risk. Schools are also becoming sites for deportations, despite teachers" pastoral duty towards all children in their care.

- lead to overcrowding, poor and insanitary conditions in detention centres. Punitive measures carried out in detention centres breach the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits absolutely inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The report condemns European governments for ignoring the shocking escalation in suicide attempts amongst asylum seekers detained pending deportation.

:: Read the introduction...

Comments on The deportation machine: Europe, asylum and human rights

"I was appalled but not surprised at the contents of the IRR¹s report. It illustrates the callous attitude at the heart of policy-making on asylum seekers. As the pace of electioneering speeds up, I fear that we will see politicians competing as to who can bring out the nastiest policies on asylum and immigration in a bid to compete for tabloid approval on the most sensitive of subjects. This approach feeds the growing trend across Europe." Jean Lambert, MEP

"The human rights violations revealed in this report cannot be divorced from racism,. If an indicator were needed of the dangers of playing the race card electorally, this is it. Lord Ouseley, Institute of Race Relations Council of Management

"The processes of deportation of asylum seekers here documented are so callous and depraved that they call to account the British values that politicians and the media constantly extol and then proceed to betray." A. Sivanandan, Director, Institute of Race Relations