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Future common European asylum system
The aim of this Green Paper is to identify the various options that may be considered in the second phase of the creation of the European asylum system.
Green Paper of 6 June 2007 on the future common European asylum system [COM (2007) 301 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
This Green Paper is intended to launch a broad process of consultation leading to the publication of an action programme. This document, which is expected to be ready in the first quarter of 2008, will bring together all the measures necessary for the setting up of a common European asylum system.
Applications for asylum
The Commission proposes:
- to increase the possibilities for applying for asylum, by improving the legal protection for asylum seekers making their application at the border;
- to harmonise more fully certain national rules concerning areas that are not or are only partially covered by the provisions made in the first phase, and particularly with regard to the quality of the decision-making process, the evaluation of the relevant documents presented by asylum seekers, and the appeal procedures;
- to re-assess certain procedural mechanisms worked out in the first phase of harmonisation, such as the concepts of safe country of origin, safe third country and European safe third country.
Reception conditions for asylum seekers
The Commission would like to limit the power of evaluation authorised by the current provisions of Council Directive 2003/9/EC on minimum standards for reception conditions for asylum seekers in the Member States. The areas in which this power could be reduced include access to the labour market and the form and standard of the material reception conditions afforded to asylum seekers.
Protection for asylum seekers
The Commission is considering possible models for a "uniform system".
Among the various options proposed, the Commission suggests:
- fuller harmonisation of eligibility criteria;
- clarification of the concepts used to define grounds for protection;
- convergence of the rights and benefits linked to the protection granted, especially those concerning residence permits, social security and health care, education and employment;.
- establishment of a uniform status that would apply to all persons eligible for refugee status or subsidiary protection;
- harmonising the status granted to persons who are not eligible for international protection as defined in the instruments set up in the first phase but who under international law are entitled to protection against removal;
- establish a system for the mutual recognition of national decisions relating to asylum.
Appropriate response in situations of vulnerability
The Commission notes important deficits in national definitions and procedures for identifying the most vulnerable asylum seekers. It thinks that more in-depth action on the part of the European Community is necessary at all stages of the asylum application evaluation process. It recommends concentrating on certain specific subjects, e.g. improving the definition of the notion of aid and adequate psychological and medical advice.
Further, the Commission suggests introducing, on the European level:
- European training programmes for people with professions (teachers, health sector professionals, psychologists, interpreters, lawyers, social workers, NGOs, etc.);
- better best-practice diffusion tools; and possibly
- common qualifications standards, as well as a follow-up mechanism that would make it possible to increase the quality level of the services offered to the most vulnerable.
The Commission is initiating a general debate on how to improve the integration of those entitled to international protection. It suggests:
- beefing up existing EU legislation;
- finalising integration programmes (addressing questions of housing, access to health care and social services);
- heightening labour market awareness of the gains to be reaped from the employment of asylum beneficiaries. On this point, the Commission recommends concentrating EU action on areas such as the recognition of qualifications.
Implementation and supporting measures
The Commission proposes expanding the scope of practical cooperation among Member States. It envisages for example:
- the creation of common guidelines for the interpretation and application of the Community acquis in the asylum field;
- improving the 'information on country of origin' portal, e.g. by linking it to immigration and refugee integration data banks;
- increasing the number of people involved in the exchange of good practices.
The Commission also wants to guarantee enhanced support for related activities as well as a concrete and systematic follow-up mechanism for evaluating their results. It is envisaging launching a feasibility study before the end of the year to examine possible options in this regard, including transforming the structures implicated in practical cooperation into a European support bureau.
Sharing responsibilities and financial solidarity
The Commission proposes looking more deeply into the principles and objectives of the Dublin regime (that is, the Dublin Regulation plus EURODAC), with a view to ensuring that application of this regime leads to a fairer distribution of asylum seekers and/or refugees among the Member States.
The Commission also wants to find a better way of using the resources of the European Refugee Fund (ERF) to reduce disparities and increase the level of the existing rules. In order to improve the impact of the ERF, it suggests setting up consultation and/or information-sharing mechanisms on the national and the EU level.
Asylum: the external dimension
The EU regional protection programmes conceived by the Commission are intended to afford greater protection for refugees and to offer them lasting solutions in their region of origin and transit. To date two pilot projects have been set up: one in the newly independent Western states and the other in Tanzania. These projects are still at a very early stage, but in the light of the evaluation of their results the Commission will consider how the EU can help third countries respond to the challenges raised by problems of asylum. It is also considering how to improve the EU's global strategies regarding third countries and how they can be made more coherent.
Alongside the implementation of regional protection programmes, the Commission is also considering how to provide global financial assistance for integration actions undertaken by the Member States.
With regard to mixed flows at the border (waves of arrivals comprising both illegal immigrants and people in need of protection), the Commission suggests considering:
- setting up roving teams of asylum experts that can be deployed temporarily to help Member States in case of need. If the solution adopted is to create a European support bureau, this could co-ordinate the deployment of these teams;
- granting emergency aid to these Member States to allow them to receive the asylum seekers and help them process their applications;
- other complementary measures that could be adopted to ensure that the obligations relating to protection imposed by the Community acquis and international law on refugees and human rights are integrated into the administration of the EU's external borders.
The Hague Programme action plan calls for the adoption of measures leading to the creation of an asylum system by the end of 2010. The Commission feels that the process has to begin now, and has drafted this Green Paper so that these questions can be debated and new measures suggested in time for them to be adopted by that date.