Civil Liberties Committee backs plan to improve asylum procedures
Committee : Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs
Asylum seekers would get fairer, more uniform access to international protection across the EU under a draft law agreed by Parliament and Council representatives and endorsed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Wednesday. This draft law is one of the five acts forming the backbone of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), to be put to a plenary vote in June.
Due to disparities among EU member states' asylum procedures, an asylum seeker's chances of being granted international protection partly depend upon where s/he lodges the application. To reduce these disparities, Parliament and Council have agreed to review the 2005 Asylum Procedures Directive to harmonise procedural guarantees for asylum seekers. The Parliament/Council deal was endorsed by 44 votes in favour, 3 against and 8 abstentions.
"There was an urgent need to reform the 2005 legislation, often referred to as the 'catalogue of the worst national practices'. The revised rules are clearer, and procedural guarantees reinforced to ensure harmonised, fair and efficient procedures. The success or failure of the new system will now depend on how it is applied and the results remain to be seen and closely monitored", said rapporteur Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, FR).
Special guarantees for vulnerable persons
MEPs inserted a new compulsory identification mechanism to ensure that asylum applicants' special needs (due to e.g. age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or illness) are recognised and that they get adequate support.
For unaccompanied minors, national authorities would have to appoint a representative, whose role and powers are now specified. If there are doubts as to the applicant's age, member states should assume that the applicant is a minor.
The new rules would also ensure that asylum applicants can obtain legal information and assistance free of charge and on request.
MEPs also inserted stricter rules on the training of all staff, e.g. police and immigration authorities, dealing with asylum seekers. For example, interviewers should be trained to recognise indications of possible past torture.
The new rules would introduce a standard six-month deadline for countries to decide on asylum applications. They could postpone their decisions only for a further nine months, in three limited and now well-defined cases. Currently, there is no EU deadline.
EU countries may also postpone starting the procedure if there is a temporarily uncertain situation in the country of origin (e.g. the current situation in Syria). MEPs have ensured that in such cases national authorities would have to review their situation assessment at least every six months. In any event, EU countries could not take longer than 21 months to process an asylum application. In a limited set of circumstances, it would be possible to use a fast-track procedure.
To enter into force, the text must receive the backing of all member states and then be confirmed by the full Parliament, possibly in June. EU countries would then have two years to transpose the new rules into national law (three years for the deadlines on asylum decisions).
In the chair: Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES)
Rapporteur: Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, FR)