Towards more accessible, equitable and managed asylum systems
The European Union is developing a new approach complementary to current asylum systems with a view to better managing asylum-related flows in their European territorial dimension and in regions of origin. The new systems should therefore be based upon full partnership with and between countries of origin, transit and first asylum, thanks to more accessible, equitable and managed asylum systems.
Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: Towards more accessible, equitable and managed asylum systems [COM(2003) 315 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
1. Replying to the invitation from the European Council to explore the ideas raised in a UK paper and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) proposals concerning new approaches to effective international protection, and within the framework of its Communication on the common asylum policy and the agenda for protection [COM(2000) 152 final], the Commission sets out its views on the basic premises of and objectives for a possible new approach towards more accessible, equitable and managed asylum systems.
2. The Commission takes the view that this new approach must be based on compliance with international legal obligations, in particular those arising from the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, and on complementarity with the Common European Asylum System called for by the Tampere European Council. It also believes that policy developments should build upon the first phase of that system and be integrated into the second phase, thus paving the way for a Tampere II agenda. In addition, any new approach should be built upon a genuine burden-sharing system both within the EU and with host third countries, rather than shifting the burden to them. Any new system should therefore be based upon full partnership with and between countries of origin, transit, first asylum and destination.
3. The new approach to asylum systems is based on three objectives:
- the orderly and managed arrival of refugees and persons in need of international protection in the European Union from their region of origin;
- burden- and responsibility-sharing within the EU as well as with regions of origin;
- the development of efficient and enforceable asylum decision-making and return procedures.
Orderly and managed arrival of refugees
4. As regards the first objective, the communication suggests that part of the programme concerns the strategic use and introduction, at EU level, of resettlement schemes and protected entry procedures. The concept of resettlement refers to transferring refugees from a first host country to a second, generally a developed country, where they enjoy guarantees of protection, including legal residence, and prospects for integration and autonomy. The concept of protected entry procedures allows a non-national to approach the potential host state outside its territory with a claim for asylum or other form of international protection, and to be granted an entry permit in the event of a positive response to that claim.
Burden and responsibility-sharing
4. Burden- and responsibility-sharing involves, first and foremost, aid for less developed regions close to source regions so that they can provide effective protection to those who need it, thus making them first countries of asylum in turn. In addition, part of the EU's financial resources should be allocated to boost the protection capacities of the source region itself.
5. A burden-sharing mechanism should be set up not just between the EU and the regions of origin or transit, but also within the European Union. This would take place within the framework of the new asylum developments resulting from the Regulation for determining the state responsible for examining asylum claims (Dublin II) and from Eurodac, the database which checks asylum seekers' fingerprints and has been operational since 15 January 2003.
6. In order to provide effective protection in the host country, significant financial aid will have to be envisaged. This could take place within existing legal, political and financial frameworks (like the process which gave rise to completion of the Cotonou Agreement). Protection can be said to be "effective" when the following conditions are met: physical security, a guarantee against refoulement, access to UNHCR asylum procedures or national procedures with sufficient safeguards and social and economic wellbeing including, as a minimum, access to primary healthcare and primary education as well as access to the labour market or to means of subsistence sufficient to maintain an adequate standard of living.
Efficient asylum and return procedures
7. In its communication the Commission also calls for consideration to be given to new legislative measures so as to contribute to better management of asylum procedures and to preserve asylum for those who are entitled to it. The Community still has to examine two major issues: improving the quality of asylum decisions (frontloading) and processing them more quickly.
8. In addition, an effective EU return policy is necessary and must be based on closer cooperation between the Community and countries of origin and first asylum. Obviously, where applications are rejected or an appeal is lodged with no suspensive effect, the applicants must be returned. The main problem concerns undocumented asylum seekers whose identity and nationality cannot be established for the purposes of return. The communication calls for consideration to be given to a more operational definition of the content of integrated return programmes in the light of the lessons learnt from the plan for Afghanistan.
9. The UK paper, on which the communication is based, forms part of a series of international protection initiatives, namely the Agenda for protection and UNHCR's Convention Plus initiative at international level and three Commission communications at European level.
- "Towards a common asylum procedure and a uniform status, valid throughout the Union, for persons granted asylum" of November 2000 [COM(2000) 755 final];
- "Integrating migration issues in the European Union's relations with third countries," December 2002 [COM(2002) 703 final];
- Common asylum policy and the agenda for protection [COM(2000) 152 final].