Current Challenges for International Refugee Law, with a Focus on EU Policies and EU Co-Operation with the UNHCR

03-12-2013

From an examination of the instruments of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and related policy measures regarding border surveillance and migration management, two interrelated issues stand out as particularly sensitive: access to asylum and responsibility for refugee protection. The prevailing view, supported by the UNHCR and others, is that responsibility for the care of asylum seekers and the determination of their claims falls on the state within whose jurisdiction the claim is made. However, the possibility to shift that responsibility to another state through inter-state cooperation or unilateral mechanisms undertaken territorially as well as abroad has been a matter of great interest to EU Member States and institutions. Initiatives adopted so far challenge the prevailing view and have the potential to undermine compliance with international refugee and human rights law. This note reviews EU action in the field by reference to the relevant legal standards and best practices developed by the UNHCR, focusing on the specific problems of climate refugees and access to international protection, evaluating the inconsistencies between the internal and external dimension of asylum policy. Some recommendations for the European Parliament are formulated at the end, including on action in relation to readmission agreements, Frontex engagement rules in maritime operations, Regional Protection Programmes, and resettlement.

From an examination of the instruments of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and related policy measures regarding border surveillance and migration management, two interrelated issues stand out as particularly sensitive: access to asylum and responsibility for refugee protection. The prevailing view, supported by the UNHCR and others, is that responsibility for the care of asylum seekers and the determination of their claims falls on the state within whose jurisdiction the claim is made. However, the possibility to shift that responsibility to another state through inter-state cooperation or unilateral mechanisms undertaken territorially as well as abroad has been a matter of great interest to EU Member States and institutions. Initiatives adopted so far challenge the prevailing view and have the potential to undermine compliance with international refugee and human rights law. This note reviews EU action in the field by reference to the relevant legal standards and best practices developed by the UNHCR, focusing on the specific problems of climate refugees and access to international protection, evaluating the inconsistencies between the internal and external dimension of asylum policy. Some recommendations for the European Parliament are formulated at the end, including on action in relation to readmission agreements, Frontex engagement rules in maritime operations, Regional Protection Programmes, and resettlement.

Autor extern

Elspeth GUILD (Centre for European Policy Studies - CEPS, Belgium , University of London, the UK , Radboud University Nijmegen, the Netherlands) and Violeta MORENO-LAX (University of London, the UK)