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Brussels, 24 May 2006

Commission proposes to strengthen solidarity between Member States on asylum policies and address emergency situations with EU assistance

The Commission adopted today an Amended proposal for the European Refugee Fund (ERF). This Proposal aims to ensure strong financial support for the efforts made by Member States to address particular pressures situations, to resettle to their territories persons in need of international protection, to enhance their practical cooperation and to implement burden-sharing operations. These funds will be made available in 2008.

Vice President Franco Frattini, Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security, said: "The burden sharing mechanism of the ERF puts in practice the notion of solidarity between Member States in the field of asylum. It is important to adapt it to the new challenges faced by Member States and the new priorities which have emerged in recent months. The ERF will therefore provide strong support to Member States' joint efforts to improve the efficiency and the quality of their asylum systems."

The Vice President added: "As illustrated by recent events, such as in the Canary Islands, the Sicilian island of Lampedusa and Malta, sudden mass arrivals of asylum seekers put a great strain on Member States' reception facilities and asylum systems. The EU should be able to offer these Member States rapid and easy accessible financial assistance for the implementation of emergency measures."

The proposal is intended to ensure that the available resources of the ERF are used in the most efficient way with a view to achieving the ambitious objectives set by the Hague programme – endorsed by the European Council as the EU's work plan for Justice and Home Affairs until 2010. In particular, it aims to ensure that the ERF can provide a comprehensive and well targeted financial support for the efforts made by Member States:

  • to improve, through strengthened practical cooperation, the quality of decision-making in the framework of the Common European Asylum System
  • to respond to the particular pressures they are confronted with when faced with sudden mass arrivals of asylum seekers and
  • to resettle to their territories refugees whose life, liberty, safety, health or other fundamental human rights are at risk in the country where they first sought refuge
  • to implement, within the EU, burden-sharing operations consisting in the transfer of beneficiaries of international protection from one Member State to another.

In a Communication of 1 September 2005, the Commission had proposed the development of EU-Regional Protection Programmes, including a joint, voluntary resettlement programme for Member States. willing to participate in such a programme. Once adopted, According to the proposed Amendment will enable the Commission, the ERF will be able to co-finance the resettlement activities implemented by Member States under their national programmes, as well as to provide a more substantial financial support for the targeted use of resettlement under the Regional Protection Programmes and for the resettlement of vulnerable categories of persons, such as minors and women at risk.

The proposed Amendment is also intended to provide an adequate financial underpinning for the programme of activities presented by the Commission in its Communication of 17 February 2006 on Strengthened Practical Cooperation aimed at developing greater convergence of the Member States' asylum systems with a view to the establishment of a fully harmonised EU system.

The ERF is a financial instrument intended to promote a balance of effort between Member States in receiving and bearing the consequences of receiving refugees and displaced persons. It supports in particular the efforts made by Member States to grant asylum seekers appropriate reception conditions and to apply fair and effective asylum procedures, as well as their efforts to integrate beneficiaries of international protection. The overall amount foreseen by this Proposal for the implementation of the Fund for the period 2008-2013 is 628 million euro.

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