Right to asylum: last evolutions

On Monday 21 September, at the request of Germany, EU immigration ministers had a debate on EU asylum legislation and more precisely on the principles which should underlie it.

The need for a discussion over EU asylum legislation was recently highlighted by a ruling of the German Constitutional Court which decided to halt the removal of an Iraqi asylum seeker from Germany to Greece. The court’s decision was based on the grounds that asylum seekers were not properly treated by Greece, where his first asylum request had been rejected. 

The establishment of a Common European Asylum System has been called for by the EU Heads of State and Government in Tampere in 1999. Since then, an important number of legislative measures harmonising common minimum standards in the area of asylum has been adopted, including the Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted and the Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

This package of measures stems from the commitments undertaken in the Hague Programme and the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum adopted by the European Council in October 2008.Its purpose is to complete the Common European Asylum System, including a single asylum procedure comprising common guarantees and a uniform status for refugees, by 2012 at the latest.

While confirming that the granting of protection and refugee status is the responsibility of each Member State, the European Council considered that the time has come to take new initiatives to complete the establishment of a Common European Asylum System and thus to offer a higher degree of protection as proposed by the Commission in its asylum action plan. 

Therefore, the European Commission brought forward two proposals on 20 October 2009 dealing respectively with qualification and status as a refugee or a person in need of international protection (COM(2009) 551 final) and with procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status (2005/85/EC).

The Qualification Directive

Considerable disparities still exist between one Member State and another concerning the grant of protection. Some provisions are too vague therefore the adoption of minimum standards has not been sufficient in itself to grant international protection regardless of which Member State is processing the asylum application. As a result, the proposal of the Commission aims at simplifying and streamlining decision-making procedures and leading to more robust determinations at first instance. 

The revision of the Qualification Directive is thus complementary to the revision of the Asylum Procedures Directive. 

The Asylum Procedure Directive

Indeed the disparity of national legislations and practices persist despite the measures introduced via the Asylum Procedures Directive. Thus the revision of the latter aims at providing asylum authorities with procedural tools which can adequately back up the correct and consistent implementation of the substantive criteria of the qualification Directive and more generally at boosting the overall capacity of asylum authorities to make robust decisions and to manage efficiently the asylum process, through a vast range of measures. 

These two proposals complement the five other legislative acts in the area of asylum which are already under negotiation: the Dublin regulation, the EURODAC regulation, the reception conditions directive, the European Asylum Support Office and the amendment of the European Refugee Fund.

Ministers were confident that further work on the legislative proposals would benefit from their discussion and the evaluation of how the current European legislation on asylum issues is implemented.

Leda Bargiotti

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