Brussels, 6 June 2007
Proposal for a Council Directive aimed at extending to beneficiaries of international protection the possibility to obtain Long-Term Residence status
The conditions under which third-country nationals settled on a long-term basis in the Member States may acquire long-term residence status ("LTR status") are regulated in Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents ("LTR Directive"). Beneficiaries of international protection (i.e. refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection) are currently excluded from the scope of the LTR Directive. This proposal amends the LTR Directive in order to extend to them the possibility to obtain LTR status subject to the same conditions applicable to any other third-country nationals.
The LTR Directive sets out the conditions which third-country nationals have to fulfil in order to acquire long-term resident status in a Member State. Once they become long-term residents, they enjoy reinforced protection against expulsion, they are guaranteed equal treatment with nationals of the EU in a wide range of economic and social matters and they also have the right to reside in another Member State for employment, study or other purposes on the conditions set out in the directive.
Beneficiaries of international protection are currently excluded from the scope of the LTR Directive. The proposed Amendment aims precisely at closing this gap, so that third-country nationals who have been granted protection by a Member State may have the possibility 1) to acquire LTR status in the Member State which granted them the protection status; 2) to take up residence in another Member State and 3) to acquire LTR status in this second Member State under exactly the same conditions as any other third-country nationals.
To cite an example, a recognized refugee in a Member State may acquire LTR status in this State if he/she can prove that:
• He/she has been residing legally and continuously in this Member State for 5 years;
• He/she has stable and regular resources which are sufficient to maintain himself/herself and the members of his/her family, without recourse to social assistance;
• He/she has sickness insurance covering all risks;
• He/she fulfils the integration conditions, if so required by the national legislation;
• He/she does not pose a threat to the public policy or public security of this Member State.
If a recognised refugee who has acquired LTR status in the Member State which granted him/her protection wishes to move to another Member State and subsequently acquire LTR status there, he/she may do so, provided he/she fulfils all these conditions also in the second Member State.
At the same time, the proposal takes into account, where necessary, the specific situation of beneficiaries of international protection as compared to other third-country nationals, in particular in order to safeguard in all circumstances the respect of the principle of non-refoulement, flowing in particular from Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In particular, it ensures that, where a beneficiary of international protection has acquired LTR status in a second Member State and the authorities of the second Member State consider expelling him/her, they are obliged to consult the authorities of the Member State which granted the protection to the person concerned and may only expel him/her to that Member State which originally granted the protection status.
This proposal does not include a mechanism for transfer of responsibility for protection under community law. This implies that requests for transfer of responsibility for protection remain governed by the 1951 Geneva convention and by the European Agreement on transfer of responsibility for refugees concluded in the framework of the Council of Europe, where applicable. I
Transfer of protection is not inherently linked to a long-term resident status for beneficiaries of international protection, since a refugee can be allowed to reside in a second Member State (for work or family reasons) even before having been granted long-term resident status in a first Member State. Moreover, transfer of protection implies the mutual recognition of asylum decisions between Member States which in turn requires a level of harmonisation of the Member States' asylum procedures which does not exist for the moment.
The Green Paper on the future of European Common asylum System is raising the question of the possibility of transfer of protection responsibilities once a beneficiary of protection takes up residence in another Member State. Exact legal modalities and precise conditions would need to be thoroughly discussed. Such a mechanism could draw in particular on the relevant provisions of the Geneva Convention and on the 1980 European Agreement on Transfer of Responsibility for Refugees concluded in the framework of the Council of Europe.
This new directive responds to the call by the Hague Programme for further progress with respect to the active elimination of obstacles to the integration of all third-country nationals settled on a long-term basis in the Member States. It is thus complementary to current Commission initiatives and policies, such as the development of a common European framework on integration.
The proposed Directive amends Directive 2003/109/EC and uses the same legal base as that act, namely Articles 63(3) (a) and 63(4)(d) of the Treaty establishing the European Community. It should be adopted by unanimity in the Council, after consultation of the European Parliament.
To find out more about Vice President Frattini's work please see his website http://www.ec.europa.eu/commission_barroso/frattini/index_en.htm