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Brussels, 1 June 2011

Asylum proposals: a more protective and effective Common European Asylum System (CEAS)

The modified proposals on the Reception Conditions Directive and the Asylum Procedures Directive are important steps towards the establishment of a comprehensive Common European Asylum System (CEAS) by 2012 (a deadline set by the Heads of State and Governments in the Stockholm Programme, 2 December 2009). They will contribute to the setting up of a common area of protection and solidarity based on a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for those granted international protection.

Why is the Commission putting forward modified proposals?

The Commission has a political responsibility to act in order to achieve a true Common European Asylum System (CEAS) by 2012. However, the negotiations in the Council and the European Parliament on the initial Commission proposals to amend the Reception Conditions Directive (2008) and the Asylum Procedures Directive (2009) have been difficult.

The modified proposals are aimed at facilitating the negotiations between the two co-legislators and enable progress on the other remaining instruments of the CEAS. They take into account the work already done by the European Parliament and the Council, as well as issues voiced by other actors (European Economic and Social Committee, Committee of the Regions, national administrations, UNHCR or NGOs working in the area of fundamental rights).

What are the proposed improvements?

In comparison to the 2008 and 2009 initiatives, the modified proposals simplify the rules, increase clarity and coherence between the different instruments of the package and introduce more flexibility, while at the same time keep the appropriate ambition on fundamental rights. They also address potential abuse. In general:

  • Amendments to the current Asylum Procedures Directive will improve the efficiency and quality of national asylum systems. The proposed system ensures a fast and fair common asylum procedure. It guarantees that applications are treated similarly in all Member States and should reduce Member States' cost by enabling them to deliver decisions quicker.

  • Amendments to the existing Receptions Conditions Directive will result in more harmonised and coherent reception systems. They will make sure that the same dignified standards of living are applied throughout the EU, irrespective of where an asylum application has been made.

CEAS: What is the state of play?

The 'first generation' of the CEAS legal instruments was adopted between 2000 and 2005. Their application revealed weaknesses resulting in big discrepancies among Member States in the treatment of asylum seekers and their applications for international protection. The EU has therefore engaged in improving its asylum acquis with a 'second generation' of legislation based on proposed modifications to the existing acquis, as called for by the Hague and the Stockholm programme.

In order to complete the work on the CEAS, five legislative proposals have been tabled and negotiated since 2008. In addition to the two modified proposals put forward today, three other proposals are currently being negotiated in the European Parliament and the Council, amending respectively the Dublin and EURODAC Regulations and the Qualification Directive. In addition, the European Parliament and the Council have recently extended the scope of the long term residents Directive to cover beneficiaries of international protection (Directive 2011/51/EU amending Directive 2003/109/EC).

The Council adopted in April 2011 an extension of the EU rules on long-term residents to include refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. Following a Commission proposal from 2007 (IP/07/768), refugees and beneficiaries of international protection, who initially were not covered by Directive 2003/109/EC, may acquire long-term resident status on a similar basis as other third country nationals after a period of five years legal residence. The beneficiaries are refugees under the terms of the Geneva Convention and persons enjoying subsidiary protection within the meaning of Directive 2004/83/EC. This ensures a higher level of legal certainty for refugees in Europe and allows for their better integration into our societies.

Member States will have to comply with the new rules within two years. The UK, Ireland and Denmark are not taking part in the application of these rules.

  • The Dublin II Regulation

As regards the Dublin II Regulation, a recast proposal was presented in December 2008 with the aim of increasing the efficiency of examining asylum cases and offering better guarantees and legal protection to asylum seekers (IP/08/2875).

The ongoing negotiations focus, among others, is on the definition of family members, provisions on detention in relation with the Dublin procedure and the suspensive character of appeals against transfer decisions.

In addition, the Commission is in favour of including within the Dublin Regulation a solidarity mechanism addressing exceptional situations of particular pressure on the asylum and reception system of a Member State. Such a last resort emergency mechanism could be triggered only after all other measures of practical cooperation and financial support, including the intervention of EASO, have failed. It would foresee, among other measures, the possibility to temporarily suspend transfers of asylum seekers to the affected Member State.

  • The EURODAC Regulation

EURODAC (the system collecting the fingerprints of asylum seekers) was the first instrument adopted in the field of asylum. It is a European flagship biometric IT system in support of asylum policy and for the proper implementation of the Dublin regulation. EURODAC protects the asylum system from abuse by avoiding multiple applications by a same person in different Member States. With its new proposal of 11th October 2010, the Commission aimed at allowing for a rapid agreement by the co-legislators on the EURODAC Regulation, and thereby facilitate progress on the whole asylum package as well as the timely set up of the IT Agency (that should also be responsible for the management of EURODAC).

  • The Qualification Directive

The Commission submitted its proposal for the recast of the Qualification Directive in October 2009 (IP/09/1552). This proposal clarifies certain legal concepts, such as “actors of protection”, “internal protection” or “membership of a particular social group”, in order to enable national authorities to apply the criteria more robustly and to identify more quickly persons in need of protection. Furthermore, the proposal aims to approximate the rights granted to refugees and to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. The amendments concern the duration of residence permits, access to social welfare, health care and the labour market. This would entail a reduction of the costs and administrative burdens linked to the management of different protection statuses.

For more information

Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:

DG Home Affairs Newsroom:

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