UK Members of Parliament Question the Idea of Safe Country of Origin List

29 October 2003

According to the electronic Romani news source Ustiben of May 10, 2003, Mr Bob Russell, a Liberal-Democrat Member of Parliament and of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Roma Affairs member, informed Ms Beverley Hughes, Home Office Minister, that Romani asylum seekers from accession countries do not consider their countries of origin to be safe. A report launched at the end of February 2003 and prepared by the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Roma Affairs detailed human rights abuses against Roma in EU accession countries Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia, according to the London-based daily newspaper The Guardian of February 27, 2003. The daily quoted Lord Avebury, a Liberal-Democrat member of both the UK House of Lords and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Roma Affairs, as having stated that "People should connect the influx of Romany asylum seekers with the failure of the states concerned to eliminate inequality. If countries eliminated violence and discrimination, people wouldn't be asking for asylum," suggesting that EU Member States address the root causes of asylum claims. Under UK law, asylum seekers from accession countries can be deported without first having the opportunity to appeal the negative decision.

In another event related to asylum in the UK, on February 25, 2003, eighty-eight persons, the majority of whom were reportedly Romani, were expelled from the UK to Czech Republic, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) of February 26, 2003. The expulsion was the most recent in a long line of such. Article 4 of Protocol 4 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms bans collective expulsions. On October 14 and 15, 2002, the Justice and Home Affairs Council of the EU issued a declaration which stated that the ten accession countries - Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia - will, from the date of signature of the accession treaties, be considered "safe countries of origin". According to the Home Office website, on February 6, 2003, Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro were added to the list and on June 17, 2003, Ukraine was added. Insofar as "safe country of origin" lists focus on states to the detriment of individuals, the "safe country of origin" approach is inconsistent with the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the primary international law governing asylum and refugee affairs. The ERRC has repeatedly criticised the practice of collectively expelling Roma, and published an edition of Roma Rights (2/2002) on the theme of "Fortress Europe". For more information on Roma rights issues in the UK, see the ERRC's Internet website, at:

(ERRC, The Guardian, RFE/RL, Ustiben)


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