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Brussels, 10 October 2006

Entry into force of key asylum law creating a “level playing field” in asylum policies throughout Europe hampered by failure of timely transposition by most Member States

On 10 October 2006, the deadline for the implementation of the Qualification Directive, which determines the criteria for the recognition of persons in need of international protection and the content of the protection status granted to them by Member States, expired. By 9 October, only 6 Member States had notified measures taken for its transposition. Vice President Frattini called this delay in the implementation of the Directive by the majority of the Member States "particularly regrettable, given that this Directive is a cornerstone of the first phase of the Common European Asylum system”.

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 ("Qualification Directive") is one of the building blocks of the first stage of the Common European Asylum System.

This Directive aims to ensure that, throughout the EU, the same criteria apply for the identification of persons who are genuinely in need of international protection and that a minimum level of rights and benefits are available for these persons in all Member States.

Vice President Franco Frattini, Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, said: "The importance of this Directive cannot be underestimated; it guarantees that the protection needs of asylum seekers will be assessed according to the same criteria wherever they make their claim in Europe and that, on the basis of their protection needs, they will be entitled to a consolidated set of rights and benefits in all Member States. This will greatly contribute to reducing the current great variances in recognition rates between Member States and therewith reducing one pull factor for “asylum shopping."

The Directive introduces a harmonized regime for the protection of those persons who fall outside the scope of the Refugee Convention, but who nevertheless still need international protection, such as victims of civil war. Furthermore, it proposes a broad, progressive interpretation with regard to the concept of the perpetrators of persecution, by recognizing that it includes non-state agents such as militia. The Directive also adopts a gender-sensitive interpretation of the Refugee Convention, allowing for the recognition as a refugee of those persons who have a well founded fear of being persecuted on account of their sexual orientation or gender. It thus recognises the legitimacy of asylum claims by women, such as those based on acts of sexual violence, domestic violence, female genital mutilation, as well as by persons facing persecution because of their homosexuality.

For both the refugee and the subsidiary protection status granted in accordance with its provisions, the Directive sets out the rights and benefits that attach to each status, regarding inter alia residence permits, access to education and employment, healthcare and social welfare, family unity and integration.
At the same time, the Directive is clear that the EU cannot become a safe haven for terrorists who apply for asylum. Tough clauses on exclusion from both refugee status and subsidiary protection status are included in it to prevent the abuse of asylum systems by those who could be a threat to the security of the EU or who have committed serious crimes.

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