Brussels, 24 June 2010
Asylum procedures: Commission refers Belgium and Ireland to EU Court of Justice for failing to complete implementation of EU rules on asylum procedures
The European Commission has decided to initiate procedures against Belgium and Ireland to the EU's Court of Justice for not having fully implemented the EU Asylum Procedures Directive. The directive states EU rules on the determination of minimum standards to be respected in the framework of procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status.
"The fact that Member States apply EU rules differently could affect the whole European asylum system as it may result in lower standards of protection for those fleeing conflicts and persecution. This is not acceptable," said Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. "These standards represent fundamental European values, namely to protect the rights of the most vulnerable. It is important to make sure that they are respected. I am ready to help Belgium and Ireland in their work to complete the final steps of their implementation."
The deadline for the implementation of the Asylum Procedures Directive was 1 December 2007. The Directive requires Member States to adopt laws, regulations or administrative provisions necessary to comply with the Directive, and for the content of these national laws to be communicated to the Commission. Over the last three years, Belgium and Ireland have implemented many of the provisions of the Directive but, despite calls from the Commission, implementation of the directive into national law has never been completed and notified to the Commission. The Commission has therefore decided to take the two Member States to the EU's Court of Justice.
To comply fully with the Directive, Belgium still needs inter alia to implement minimum requirements concerning the conduct of personal interviews, some specific guarantees for unaccompanied minors and guarantees applying when withdrawing refugee status.
In the case of Ireland, to comply fully with the Directive, it still needs inter alia to implement requirements concerning the conduct of personal interviews, some guarantees for unaccompanied minors, the obligation to inform asylum applicants of delays in completing the procedure, and procedures for dealing with subsequent applications.
The Asylum Procedures Directive aims to ensure that, throughout the EU, Member States' asylum procedures at first instance fulfil the same minimum standards. Subject to some exceptions, the Directive guarantees the opportunity of personal interviews for asylum applicants as well as the basic principles and guarantees for the examination of claims. These guarantees include, inter alia, that asylum seekers should receive comprehensive information at the beginning of the process on how the asylum procedure works, a motivated decision on the asylum claim, access to legal assistance and interpretation services, as well as the Member States' duty to meet special needs of unaccompanied children.
The Directive provides that all asylum decisions shall be subject to judicial scrutiny. It also requires that Member States’ asylum authorities decide promptly on the applications of persons who are legitimately seeking refugee status in the EU.
All EU Member States except Denmark are bound by the Asylum Procedures Directive.
On 21 October 2009, the Commission proposed to amend the Directive (see IP/09/1552 and MEMO/09/472), with a view to: (i) providing for a single procedure by ensuring the simplification and rationalisation of asylum procedures, as well as a reduction in the administrative burden for Member States; (ii) requiring that relevant information and advice is 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; (iii) enhancing the efficiency of the process of examining an application, for instance by introducing a general time limit of six months for completing procedures at first instance; (iv) enhancing procedural guarantees, in particular for vulnerable groups such as victims of torture or unaccompanied children; (v) clearly stating that courts or tribunals should review first instance decisions on both facts and points of law and by laying down clear rules concerning the suspensive effect of appeals.
For more information about the three-stage infringement process, see IP/10/798.
For more information
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:
Justice and Home Affairs Newsroom: