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Parliamentary question - E-002523/2013Parliamentary question

Access to detention centres for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and the media and the right to information

Question for written answer E-002523-13
to the Commission
Rule 117
Hélène Flautre (Verts/ALE) , Marie-Christine Vergiat (GUE/NGL) , Jean Lambert (Verts/ALE) , Cornelia Ernst (GUE/NGL) , Carmen Romero López (S&D) , Raül Romeva i Rueda (Verts/ALE) , Sylvie Guillaume (S&D)

MEPs have the right to visit detention centres for third-country nationals in the European Union. Attempts to exercise this right have confirmed the need for open access to these centres and for transparency as regards their operation and the rights of detainees. The ‘Open Access Now’ campaign was launched in 2012 to find out how easy it was for NGOs and the media to access these centres, and to gather information. Access was refused in Spain, Belgium, Bulgaria, Poland, France and Italy. Even an organisation specialising in the rights of third-country nationals was refused access in Italy. No response was received to some of the requests for access, and some were refused for no real reason: ‘it will not be possible to meet your request’ or ‘your request has been transferred to the competent authorities’. Other requests were refused for a variety of reasons: ‘upcoming elections’ and a ‘duty of confidentiality’ in France, or ‘risk of revolt’ in Italy. In Belgium, a request from an accredited organisation to gain access with journalists was refused because ‘residents may not be exposed to public curiosity’ (provision for this is made in Belgian law if the consent of residents is obtained). Only one visit by civil society was permitted in Romania.

1. Does the Commission believe that the Member States are making adequate efforts to implement Regulation (EC) No 862/2007? How does it intend to bring about improvements in this area?

2. How does the Commission intend to improve freedom of expression and information (Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights) in connection with the implementation of Directive 2008/115/EC, with a view to allowing transparency and parliamentary scrutiny?

3. How does the Commission intend to evaluate the implementation of Article 16(4) of Directive 2008/115/EC, which has been rendered ineffective in practice by the approach taken to granting prior authorisations?

4. What proposal could the Commission adopt in order to respond to the European Parliament’s request in its report on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union 2004‐2008 (2007/2145(INI)) for a right of access for specialised NGOs, so that their access to these centres is enshrined in law rather than merely a matter of good will?

OJ C 362 E, 12/12/2013