Criticized by groups like Amnesty International as “severely flawed” and an erosion of human rights standards, the so-called return directive was passed in the European Parliament here by a 369-to-197 vote, with 106 legislators abstaining.
Manfred Weber, the German center-right legislator from Bavaria who shepherded the measure through Parliament, said that it provided minimum common standards for the treatment of migrants throughout the European Union while still showing citizens it was tough on illegality.
As for the migrants, he said: “The member states must decide whether they need them; if so, then please legalize them. If you don’t need them for your labor markets, then send them home.”Ten amendments to the measure, proposed by Socialists and intended to offer migrants some protections and legal recourse, were rejected.
They included a requirement that a judge approve detention within 72 hours of an arrest, the obligation to provide detainees with free legal counsel and the possibility of making the five-year ban on re-entry optional.
Other amendments would have reduced the maximum detention period to six months rather than 18 and insisted on greater assurances for the protection of unaccompanied children.
One opponent of the measure, Cimade — the only French nongovernmental organization authorized to work in France’s 23 detention centers — released a statement saying that it deplored the passage of what civil liberties groups have called “the directive of shame,” and said it was weighing contesting it before the European Court of Justice or the European Court of Human Rights.
Amnesty International said it was “deeply disappointed” by the outcome of the vote, and appealed to member states currently applying higher standards not to use the directive as a pretext for lowering them.The Europe Union has freedom of movement among 25 of its 27 member states but no overarching policy on immigration.
Supporters see the new measure as a means to unify a patchwork of systems governing treatment of migrants who overstay their visas or who, in far lesser numbers, slip clandestinely across borders.The European Union has 224 detention centers for migrants, with capacity for 30,871 people.
National regulations on how long migrants can be confined vary; in France, it is 32 days; in Germany, 18 months. Eight European Union countries have no time limit.
European legislators visiting Denmark in April said they were concerned about some detainees who had been held for eight years.Mr. Weber said the measure passed Wednesday provided a limit on detention in those eight countries — though two, Denmark and Britain, can opt out of the restriction.
Opponents fear the directive will encourage countries with shorter detention limits to extend them.
Dragutin Mate, Slovenia’s interior minister, had warned lawmakers that failure to approve the directive would mean no agreement on immigration in the European Union for at least three years, which would jeopardize pending legislation on workers’ rights.
The vote came a day after António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, said that the world was dealing with “a complex mix of global challenges that could threaten even more forced displacement” in the future than the 37.4 million people displaced last year.
The refugee agency is concerned about those fleeing conflicts or persecution who have the right under international law to seek asylum but opt for illegal entry to Europe because of a lack of legal channels.It says that many people will be subject to the directive’s five-year re-entry ban, which does not take account of changes in their home countries that could force them to leave again.