Brussels, 21 st October 2009
A single and fairer asylum procedure for a uniform status in the EU: putting in place the final building blocks for international protection
Today the European Commission adopted proposals to amend two existing legislative instruments of the Common European Asylum System: the Directive on qualification and status of persons in need of international protection and the Directive on asylum procedures.
These amendments follow the proposals presented by the Commission in December 2008 and in 2009 to implement the Hague Programme and the Policy Plan on Asylum : the Directive on reception conditions for asylum-seekers, the Dublin Regulation, the Eurodac Regulation, the European Asylum Support Office Regulation and the joint EU resettlement scheme. The envisaged measures aim to offer a higher degree of protection to victims of persecutions, as asked for by the European Council in the Pact on Immigration and Asylum. At the same time, the proposals are expected to improve the coherence between EU asylum instruments, simplify and consolidate substantive and procedural standards of protection across the Union, thus preventing fraud and improving efficiency of the asylum process.
Vice-President Jacques Barrot, Commissioner responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice, stated: " Today, the Commission puts in place the final building blocks of the Common European Asylum System. Significant progress has been accomplished in recent years as a result of the implementation of common standards, but considerable disparities remain between Member States. Our proposals represent a major step forward towards achieving higher standards of protection, a more equal level playing field as well as higher efficiency and coherence for the system".
In particular, the proposal aims to:
clarify certain legal concepts used to define the grounds for protection, such as "actors of protection", "internal protection" or "membership of a particular social group". For instance, gender issues will be better taken into account while assessing an application. These clarifications will enable national authorities to apply the criteria more robustly and to identify more quickly persons in need of protection and those who are not;
eliminate the differences in the level of rights granted to refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection which can no longer be considered as justified. The amendments concern the duration of residence permits, access to social welfare, health care and the labour market.
enhance effective access to rights already granted by the Directive by taking into account the specific integration challenges faced by beneficiar ies of international protection. For instance, they cannot ask the authorities of their country for documentary evidence of their academic and professional qualifications. Accordingly, the proposal seeks to help them overcome such practical obstacles, by facilitating the recognition of their qualifications, their access to vocational training as well as to integration facilities.
Asylum Procedures Directive
In particular, the proposal aims to:
provide for a single procedure by ensuring the simplification and rationalisation of asylum procedures, as well as a reduction of administrative burden for Member States;
facilitate access to examination procedures . Relevant information and advice should be made available for persons who wish to lodge an application for international protection already at a very initial stage of their presence in the territory. Border guards, police and other authorities who first come into contact with persons seeking protection will have a clearer view of how to deal with them;
enhance the efficiency of the examination process of applications. One of the important measures is the introduction of a general time limit of six months for completing procedures at first instance. The proposal provides for a transitory period of three years to allow Member States to adapt to this time limit. It also simplifies and clarifies procedural notions and devices such as the concept of "safe country of origin", the obligation of asylum seekers to cooperate with national authorities or the accelerated procedures. The amendments are instrumental in ensuring quicker access to protection for persons genuinely in need of protection.
improve quality of asylum decisions . The proposal enhances procedural guarantees, in particular for vulnerable persons such as victims of torture or unaccompanied children. The personnel dealing with asylum applicants will need to have the appropriate expertise
ensure access to effective remedy for asylum applicants in line with Community and international obligations of Member States. The proposal clearly states that courts or tribunals should review first instance decisions on both facts and points of law and it lays down clear rules concerning suspensive effect of appeals. The amendments ensure consistency with the evolving case law concerning the right to defence, the principle of equality of arms and the right to effective judicial protection.
COM (2008) 360