The EU and the European Parliament are working on improving the Common European Asylum System in response to the current refugee crisis. Read on to understand how.
Since 2015, hundreds of thousands of people escaping war and persecution have sought asylum in Europe. However, the European asylum system has rapidly appeared unfit to cope with this unprecedented refugee influx. In response to the refugee crisis, the European Union has made the revision of asylum rules a priority, primarily to ensure that responsibilities are shared fairly between member states.
Introducing responsibility-sharing: revision of the Dublin regulation
The procedure for seeking refugee status is determined by the Dublin regulation, the single most important element of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). It determines which EU country is responsible for processing asylum claims, the general rule being that it is the first country of entry. On rare occasions, other factors including family situation and health are taken into account.
The current system, created in 2003, was not designed to distribute asylum applications between member states, and when the number of refugees entering the EU soared in 2015, border countries such as Greece and Italy began to struggle to accommodate all applicants. Parliament has been calling for an overhaul of the Dublin system since 2009.
In April 2016, the European Commission proposed the so-called fairness mechanism, a way for member states to share responsibility for refugees based on wealth and population size.
On 16 November 2017 MEPs adopted Parliament's position on the reform of the Dublin regulation. That means that the Parliament is ready to start negotiations with the Council as soon as EU countries have agreed their own negotiating position.
Cecilia Wikström is the MEP responsible for steering the new rules through Parliament. In her report she set outs three priorities:
All EU countries should share responsibility for asylum seeker
- The countries where most refugees first arrive should take responsibility for registering everyone arriving as well as protecting and maintaining the EU's external borders
- Asylum applications should be processed much quicker so that those in need of protection get it sooner, while those with no right to asylum can be returned to their home country swifter
Find out the state of play of the Dublin regulation.
Granting safe access to the EU: the creation of an EU Resettlement Framework
Resettlement is the transfer, on request from the UNHCR, of a third-country national in need of international protection from a non-EU country to an EU member state, where he or she is permitted to reside as a refugee. It is one of the preferred options for granting safe and lawful access to the European Union for refugees.
In order to ensure a durable solution to the refugee crisis, Parliament has underlined the need for a permanent and mandatory EU resettlement programme. In July 2016, the Commission proposed the establishment of a permanent framework with standard common procedures for resettlement across the EU.
See the state of play of the EU Resettlement Framework.
Keeping track: upgrade of the Eurodac database
All refugees crossing EU borders should be registered and have their fingerprints taken; this information is stored in the Eurodac database.
In May 2016, the European Commission proposed that additional data such as name, nationality, place and date of birth, travel document information and facial images be included to support the practical implementation of the reformed Dublin system.
Increasing the information in the system will allow immigration authorities to easily identify an illegal migrant or asylum applicant without having to request the information from another member state. The European Parliament is currently in negotiations with the Council and Commission on how best to progress.
Find out the state of play of the Eurodac recast.
Ensuring greater uniformity: the Common European Asylum System
Greater convergence of the asylum system is key to responsibility-sharing. It will help relieve the pressure on countries offering better conditions and help prevent “asylum-shopping”. A number of legislative proposals are currently being examined by the European Parliament to bring greater uniformity about.
In June 2017, Parliament's civil liberties committee backed a new qualification regulation on the recognition of people in need of protection. The aim of the regulation is to clarify the grounds for granting asylum and to ensure that asylum seekers face equal treatment regardless of the member state in which they file their request (check out the progress on the qualification regulation).
The recast of the reception conditions directive aims to ensure that asylum seekers benefit from harmonised material reception standards (housing, access to the labour market etc.) and that their fundamental rights are fully respected.
Also on the table is the strengthening of the mandate of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and its transformation into a truly EU Asylum Agency which would improve the functioning of the common asylum system.