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Procedure : 2006/2184(INI)
Document stages in plenary
Document selected : A6-0182/2007

Texts tabled :

A6-0182/2007

Debates :

PV 20/06/2007 - 19
CRE 20/06/2007 - 19

Votes :

PV 21/06/2007 - 8.10
Explanations of votes

Texts adopted :

P6_TA(2007)0286

Texts adopted
WORD 51k
Thursday, 21 June 2007 - Strasbourg Final edition
Decision-making in the common European asylum system
P6_TA(2007)0286A6-0182/2007

European Parliament resolution of 21 June 2007 on asylum: practical cooperation, quality of decision-making in the common European asylum system (2006/2184(INI))

The European Parliament ,

–   having regard to Article 63(1) and (2) of the Treaty establishing the European Community,

–   having regard to Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status(1) ,

–   having regard to Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted(2) ,

–   having regard to Council Regulation (EC) No 343/2003 of 18 February 2003 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national(3) (Dublin II Regulation),

–   having regard to Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003 laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers(4) ,

–   having regard to the Hague Programme of 4 and 5 November 2004,

–   having regard to its position of 27 September 2005 on the draft Council directive on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status(5) ,

–   having regard to the Commission Communication on strengthened practical cooperation: new structures, new approaches: improving the quality of decision-making in the common European asylum system (COM(2006)0067),

–   having regard to the Commission Communication on adaptation of the provisions of Title IV of the Treaty establishing the European Community relating to the jurisdiction of the Court of Justice with a view to ensuring more effective judicial protection (COM(2006)0346),

–   having regard to Rule 45 of its Rules of Procedure,

–   having regard to the report of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs and the opinion of the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality (A6-0182/2007),

A.   whereas international conventions, including the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, must be fully observed and the principle of non-refoulement must always be upheld,

B.   whereas the first phase of the introduction of the common asylum system was completed with the adoption of the four instruments provided for in Article 63(1) of the EC Treaty; whereas there are both political and technical difficulties which will have to be overcome before the second phase of the system can be launched, the aim of which is to introduce a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for persons entitled to asylum or subsidiary protection; and whereas it is to be hoped that the deadline for completing this phase, 2010, will be met,

C.   whereas it had already lent its backing to the definition of 'refugee', when it appeared in Council Directive 2004/83/EC and that definition is therefore also valid for this resolution,

D.   whereas, when it comes to implementing joint standards, the adoption of directives is only a first step, and whereas this phase must necessarily be followed by the proper implementation in all Member States of the provisions adopted at Community level; whereas scrutiny of that implementation process by the Commission constitutes a highly significant task for which appropriate resources must therefore be made available,

E.   whereas the instruments adopted thus far in the area of asylum policy have only set minimum standards, and bearing in mind that the tendency to agree on a lowest common denominator must be overcome in order to avoid a race to the bottom, lowering the protection and the quality of reception, of procedures, and of protection,

F.   whereas in the Hague Programme of 4 and 5 November 2004, the European Council called on the Council and the Commission to establish suitable structures involving the national asylum services of the Member States, with a view to facilitating practical cooperation, and whereas stepping up this practical cooperation and exchange of information and details of proven procedures between the Member States represents an important means of achieving the goal of a common asylum procedure and a uniform status",

G.   whereas strengthening mutual trust is a cornerstone of the process of establishing a common asylum system, and whereas practical and regular cooperation between the various administrative levels in the Member States is the best method of establishing such trust; whereas strengthening mutual trust is necessary to ensure quality and also to increase public confidence in the management of asylum, thereby facilitating a less adversarial and more efficient process,

H.   whereas the effective implementation of asylum policy is contingent on efforts to achieve a number of complementary objectives, such as improving the quality of decision-making, the prompt and secure processing of applications for protection and the organisation of information campaigns in countries of origin and transit which make clear the scope for legal immigration, the arrangements for securing refugee status or humanitarian protection, the dangers involved in trafficking in human beings, in particular women and unaccompanied minors, and the consequences both of illegal immigration and of denial of refugee status,

I.   whereas, with a view to improving the processing of asylum applications, and thus reducing the number of court proceedings and procedural delays, it may make sense to draw on support from relevant organisations, for example UNHCR, which has developed a method intended to support authorities in their efforts to improve the quality of their decision-making (Quality Initiative),

J.   whereas, as the Justice and Home Affairs Council stated on 27 and 28 April 2006, efforts must be made to introduce a uniform procedure with a view to preventing delays and thus making a practical contribution to improving the effectiveness of the procedures,

K.   whereas, despite the existence of a common set of basic asylum-related measures adopted since the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam, at national level the Member States continue to implement measures or take decisions which have implications for the other Member States, in particular as regards the granting of international protection,

L.   whereas Article 29 of Directive 2005/85/EC provides for the drawing-up of a minimum common list of third countries regarded as safe countries of origin, and noting that on the one hand this list has still not been drawn up and on the other hand that the Council did not take into account Parliament's opinion when adopting that Directive, for which reason an action for annulment of Directive 2005/85/CE is now pending before the Court of Justice of the European Communities (the Court of Justice); whereas such a list should be adopted under the codecision procedure; whereas the inclusion of a country on that list does not mean automatically that asylum seekers from that country will be basically refused asylum, but rather that, according to the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees, as amended by the New York Protocol of 31 January 1967 (Geneva Convention), there is an individual assessment of every single application,

M.   whereas it is a matter for regret that the Council did not see fit to employ the codecision procedure in connection with the drawing-up of the list of safe countries of origin, and whereas the judgment which the Court of Justice will hand down on this issue is awaited with interest,

N.   whereas the Member States must have high quality information about current dangers in countries of origin at their disposal if they are to guarantee reliable and fair procedures which ensure that asylum seekers" rights are respected,

O.   whereas violence and the threat of violence against women constitute a breach of the right to life, safety, freedom, dignity and physical and emotional integrity, as well as being a serious threat to the physical and mental health of the victims of such violence,

P.   whereas although there are technical and political problems which hamper the sharing of sensitive information about countries of origin, a joint database on countries of origin must surely ultimately be set up, so that all persons involved in the procedure can rely on the same information when dealing with an individual application,

Q.   whereas if decision-making procedures are to be improved the level of training of the civil servants who take the decisions will have to be raised,

R.   whereas the procedure best suited to enabling the Court of Justice to guarantee the unity of Community law is the preliminary ruling procedure laid down in Article 234 of the EC Treaty, and whereas a key component of that procedure is the principle that any national court may ask the Court of Justice for a ruling; whereas, however, on the basis of the derogation from that principle laid down in Article 68 of the EC Treaty, the Court of Justice is unfortunately empowered to interpret asylum-related provisions only if consulted by the national court of final instance,

1.  Welcomes the efforts made to improve practical cooperation in the common European asylum system; considers that improving quality in procedures and decisions is in the interests of both the Member States and asylum-seekers;

2.  Reaffirms the need for a proactive common EU asylum policy, based on the obligation to admit asylum seekers and on respect for the principle of non-refoulement ; recalls, in this respect, the fundamental role of a strong Common Foreign and Security Policy, promoting and safeguarding democracy and fundamental rights;

3.  Emphasises once again that the ultimate objective of introducing a common asylum system must be to ensure a high quality of protection, of assessment of individual asylum claims, and of procedures resulting in duly substantiated and fair decisions; points out that improvement in the quality of decision making must ensure that those in need of protection may enter the EU safely and have their claims properly processed, and ensure strict adherence to international standards of human rights and refugee law, in particular to the principle of non-refoulement ;

4.  Condemns the clearly inadequate resources available to the Commission to monitor the implementation of the various directives which deal with asylum-related matters, and urges the Member States to facilitate the Commission's task by systematically submitting to it a table of equivalences setting out exactly what measures have been taken to implement which provisions of those directives;

5.  Calls on the Council and the Commission to work to bring about the introduction in all Member States of a single procedure which makes for fair and effective decision-making, in order to ensure that refugee status is granted as quickly as possible to all those who are entitled to it;

6.  Points out, with regard to the conditions and procedures for granting international protection and, in particular, subsidiary protection, that as long as asylum-related legal provisions are based on minimum standards and on the lowest common denominator, differences between the Member States will continue to exist and 'asylum shopping' will remain an issue;

7.  Emphasises that one of the objectives of the asylum-related instruments adopted is to curb so-called 'secondary' movements; therefore urges the Member States to take practical steps to achieve the highest possible degree of convergence among their respective asylum policies;

8.  Takes the view that one of the improvements to be made to the EU asylum system should consist, for the sake of greater solidarity, in a fairer share of the burden carried in particular by those Member States at the external borders of the EU, and already awaits with interest the Commission's assessment of the Dublin II Regulation and any proposals it may make in this area;

9.  Considers that due note should be taken of the fact that civil servants responsible for decisions granting refugee status must have proper training on the basis of a European curriculum, with the possibility of obligatory qualifications or an obligatory level of qualification being introduced;

10.  Calls for information campaigns to be carried out in countries of origin and transit with a view to making clear to potential migrants both the risks inherent in illegal immigration and the consequences of denial of refugee status, and the scope for legal migration and the possibility to apply for asylum in a justified case, as well as the dangers involved in trafficking in human beings, in particular women and unaccompanied minors;

11.  Calls - once judicial remedies have been exhausted - for measures applicable to persons who have not been granted refugee status or whose refugee status has been revoked to be implemented quickly and fairly with full respect for the human dignity and fundamental rights of the persons who have to be repatriated; calls furthermore in this respect for the establishment in the shortest possible term of a EU repatriation procedure;

12.  Calls for the measures applicable to persons who have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection to be implemented quickly and fairly, in order that decent living conditions, effective integration in social and political life and shared active involvement in decisions taken by the host community may be fostered;

13.  Calls on the Commission to overcome as quickly as possible the technical and political problems involved in introducing a joint database containing information about countries of origin; considers that an EU database should work as an open system, so that all persons involved in the procedure can rely on the same information when dealing with an individual application; hopes that a pragmatic solution can be found to the problem of multilingualism;

14.  Notes on the one hand the previous Commission's efforts, pursuant to the provisions of Article 29 of Directive 2005/85/EC, to draw up a list of safe countries of origin, but recalls on the other hand the pending judgment of the action for annulment which was brought before the Court of Justice concerning that Directive, for which reason the drafting of such a list is currently suspended; and calls on the Council to take into account these contrasting elements and to make decisions accordingly; points out, furthermore, that the safe third country concept does not exempt Member States from their obligations under international law, in particular the provisions laid down in the Geneva Convention concerning the principle of non-refoulement and the individual assessment of every single application for asylum;

15.  Takes the view that coordinating activities in connection with practical cooperation on asylum-related matters must remain the task of the Commission, which must be provided with resources appropriate to that task; calls on the Commission to advocate that option in the report which it will submit in early 2008 concerning progress with the first phase of activities and, if it chooses another option, to justify why the establishment of a new structure in the form of a 'European Support Office' is considered necessary, whereas the cost-benefit ratio should be taken into account; takes the view that if the Commission envisages the creation of a European Support Office, it should be under a strict obligation to include guarantees of its transparency and accountability;

16.  Calls on the Member States to cooperate fully with UNHCR, to provide it with the appropriate support and to carry out a "Quality Initiative" exercise and publish the results of that initiative, so as to familiarise people with and encourage the use of best practices with regard to the processing of applications for international protection;

17.  Considers it unacceptable that asylum seekers should be held in conditions which deprive them of their individual freedom;

18.  Stresses the need to establish reception centres with separate facilities for families, women and children and suitable facilities for elderly and disabled asylum-seekers; calls for reception conditions to be assessed as part of measures implementing Directive 2003/9/EC; stresses, in this connection, the need for full use to be made of the opportunities afforded by the new European Refugee Fund;

19.  Welcomes the measures planned by the Commission to support those Member States which are under severe pressure, so that they can cope with problems relating to the reception of asylum seekers and the assessment of asylum applications; welcomes, in particular and above all, the proposal to send teams of experts comprising members from different Member States;

20.  Emphasises that it is the Commission's task to monitor the application of asylum-related directives and that the resources made available to it for this purpose currently fall well short of those needed to carry out such a comprehensive task successfully; takes the view that the credibility of the Union in this area and the future of the common asylum policy are at stake;

21.  Encourages the Commission to make it easier to access financial instruments such as the European Refugee Fund and the ARGO Programme so as to enable Member States to obtain funding swiftly in an emergency;

22.  Points out that the body of Community law created in the area of asylum policy must be uniformly interpreted and applied throughout the Union; takes the view that harmonisation in the area of asylum policy will be facilitated and speeded up if the Court of Justice can in future be consulted by courts other than national courts of final instance, as is currently the case; calls on the Council, therefore, to restore to the Court of Justice its full powers in the area of preliminary rulings granted to it pursuant to Title IV of the EC Treaty; welcomes the Court of Justice Discussion Paper on the treatment of questions referred for a preliminary ruling concerning the area of freedom, security and justice(6) and encourages discussion on the need for a procedure that is adapted to the specific nature of cases in the field of asylum and immigration;

23.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council and the Commission.

(1) OJ L 326, 13.12.2005, p. 13.
(2) OJ L 304, 30.9.2004, p. 12.
(3) OJ L 50, 25.2.2003, p. 1.
(4) OJ L 31, 6.2.2003, p. 18.
(5) OJ C 227 E, 21.9.2006, p. 46.
(6) Council Document 13272/06.

Last updated: 26 February 2008Legal notice