Brussels, 2 December 2011
Asylum policy: More trust through more solidarity between EU Member States
Today the European Commission has adopted a communication on "Enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum" which seeks to reinforce practical, technical and financial cooperation, move towards a better allocation of responsibilities and an improved governance of the asylum system, and to contribute to the finalisation of the "Common European Asylum System" by 2012.
Common European Asylum System (CEAS)
The EU is working towards the establishment of a comprehensive Common European Asylum System (CEAS) by 2012 (a deadline set by the Stockholm Programme). The CEAS aims to set up a common area of protection and solidarity based on a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for people who have been granted international protection.
The Commission has proposed to reform the legislative framework which will form the basis of the CEAS- It consists of three Directives and two Regulations. The European Parliament and the Council have recently adopted the first of these proposals, the Qualification Directive, on 24 November 2011.
The other instruments (the Asylum Procedures Directive, the Reception Conditions Directive, the Dublin II Regulation and the EURODAC Regulation) are still under intense negotiations with the European Parliament and the Council.
European Asylum Support Office (EASO)
The creation of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in June 2011 has further strengthened practical cooperation in the field of asylum. The EASO supports Member States in their efforts to implement a more consistent and fair asylum policy, for example by helping to identify good practices, organising training at the European level and improving access to accurate information on countries of origin of the asylum seekers.
The EASO also contributes to the development of the CEAS by drawing up an annual report on the asylum situation in the EU and adopting technical documents, such as guidelines and operating manuals, on the implementation of the Union's asylum instruments.
It also provides technical and operational support to Member States facing particular pressures on their asylum and reception systems. Such support is, for instance, channelled through the deployment of asylum expert teams who can help alleviate some of the pressure on the country's asylum systems.
For example, an Operating Plan for the deployment of EU Asylum Support Teams in Greece was signed on 1 April 2011, with the aim of assisting the Greek authorities in setting up a modern and efficient asylum and reception system. The first team was deployed in May 2011. Several Member States have offered their experts (Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Hungary, The Netherlands, Romania, Slovakia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom).
The communication adopted today identifies ways in which practical cooperation, including through the EASO, could be further strengthened.
European Refugee Fund (ERF)
The European Refugee Fund is one of the current four financial instruments of the General Programme "Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows". The amount allocated to the Fund for the period 2008-2013 is €628 million.
The Fund aims to support and encourage the efforts made by the Member States and contributes to putting in place a common policy on asylum in line with the renewed commitments contained in the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, in the Stockholm Programme and its Action Plan and in the Europe 2020 strategy. It also contributes to the completion of the Common European Asylum System by adopting higher common standards of international protection, supporting practical cooperation and increasing solidarity within the EU and between the EU and third countries affected by refugee flows.
Asylum and Migration Fund
For the next Multiannual Financial Framework 2014-2020, the Commission is proposing to set up an Asylum and Migration Fund, with an overall budget of approximately €3.9 billion. The new fund will allow for more flexibility and reduced administrative burdens for actions focusing on people flows and the integrated management of migration. It will support actions in relation to asylum, legal migration and the integration of third-country nationals, and return operations. Funding for these activities is currently covered by three separate Funds: the European Refugee Fund, the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals and the European Return Fund, respectively.
Relocation is the transfer of beneficiaries of international protection from one Member State to another, with the receiving Member State assuming responsibility for the persons.
The Commission has strongly supported the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection. In June 2009, the Commission proposed an EU-wide pilot project, the EUREMA (EU Relocation Malta Project), co-financed by the European Refugee Fund. The project ended in summer 2011, having resettled 227 beneficiaries of international protection from Malta to six other Member States. The success of the project led to the launching of a second phase with a pledging conference held on 12 May 2011 at the initiative of the Commission. Although more total places were pledged than during the first phase—a total of nearly 340—the number still remains low. The Commission urges Member States to go as far as they can in providing further places, especially given the number of new arrivals of asylum seekers in Malta over the summer.
Based on the experience of the two phases of the project, and taking into account the EASO’s future support for relocation activities, the Commission will propose, subject to a further impact assessment, a permanent relocation scheme, based on voluntary commitments by Member States and consent of beneficiaries. This would allow Member States to request assistance through relocation, including in an emergency.
Temporary Protection Directive
Apart from the emergency component of a future permanent relocation scheme, in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons, the Commission will consider activating the mechanism of the Temporary Protection Directive when the necessary conditions are met. This Directive provides for an adequate status for its beneficiaries, while relieving the asylum system and creating a structured, yet voluntary, mechanism for the transfer of beneficiaries between Member States. At the same time, the criteria for its triggering are strictly defined: it can be done only in the event of a mass influx or imminent mass influx of displaced persons unable to return to their country of origin in safe and durable conditions, in particular if there is also a risk that the asylums system will be unable to process this influx without adverse effects for its efficient operation. A mass influx implies the arrival in the Union of a large number of such displaced persons, who come from a specific country or geographic area, whether their arrival in the Union was spontaneous or aided, for example through an evacuation programme. The Union has not found itself in a situation of mass influx of displaced persons since the Kosovo refugee crisis of 1999. The events of 2011 in the Southern Mediterranean have not led to an influx of persons into the EU of a comparable scale.
Strengthening the resilience of the Dublin system
The Commission, the European Parliament and the Member States have recently discussed how to ensure that Member States' asylum systems function properly and how to detect and address emerging problems before they lead to crises. The idea of an evaluation and early warning mechanism seems to present a way forward. Such a mechanism could have two functions: first, the ongoing monitoring of all Member States to ensure their constant preparedness; second, a structured, sequential course of action to address deficiencies before they grow into a fully-fledged crisis.
In practice, an evaluation and early warning process could cover different aspects of the governance of each Member State’s asylum system, including for example the geographical and budgetary organisation of the asylum system, the impact of Dublin transfers, the proper use of EU solidarity tools, participation in EU solidarity initiatives etc. The reports and recommendations resulting from the assessment would provide an early warning of potential problems. They could also be used to better coordinate solidarity measures targeting the Member State in question, including through a better programming of EU Funds and the priorities of the EASO’s practical cooperation activities.
Other aspects of migration management
Other aspects of migration management can also help consolidate intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum. The EU must have an efficient policy on returns to safeguard the credibility and integrity of asylum systems. This is an issue that the Commission will address in a separate Communication in 2013.
Working towards more convergence in legal migration policy can also support solidarity, in particular to ensure that asylum policy, including its solidarity aspects, does not suffer the consequences of ineffective management of legal migration.
Cooperation with third countries (particularly countries of origin and transit of refugees), if conducted appropriately by the EU as a whole, can also help manage or in some cases prevent asylum flows. Such cooperation should include, for example, helping to improve the protection space in other regions of the world, or offering an increased number of resettlement places inside the EU. Such cooperation can also be a way of expressing solidarity with third countries, which are often under much higher asylum pressure than the EU, as recently demonstrated in the migration crisis related to the events in the Southern Mediterranean, and as highlighted in the Communication on a Global Approach to Migration and Mobility.
For more information
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:
DG Home Affairs Newsroom: