Reform of the reception conditions directive

In “Promoting our European Way of Life”

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In its Communication ‘Towards a reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and enhancing legal avenues to Europe’ of 6 April 2016, the Commission acknowledged the inherent weaknesses of the EU asylum system in time of migratory crisis.

The objective pursued by the Commission is to strengthen and harmonise further the CEAS rules, so as to ensure more equal treatment of asylum applicants across the EU and reduce undue pull factors to come to the EU. For this purpose on 13 July 2016 it put forward a legislative proposal on the reform of the Reception Conditions Directive. The aim of the proposal is to ensure that asylum seekers can benefit from harmonised and dignified reception standards throughout the EU.

In his 2017 State of the Union Letter of Intent the Commission president Juncker called upon the EP and the Council to adopt the proposal on the reception conditions by the end of 2018. Along the same lines, the Commission in its Communication of December 2017 invited the EU Leaders to agree on reaching the political agreement between the EP and the Council on the Reception conditions directive by May 2018.

In its resolution of 6 July 2016, the Parliament called for conditions to be created within the EU for well-managed reception of asylum-seekers that ensures their safety and humane treatment, paying particular attention to the needs of vulnerable groups. In its resolution of 5 July 2016, the Parliament called on the Commission to consider a targeted revision of the Reception Conditions Directive to ensure that applicants of international protection have access to the labour market as soon as possible after their applications are lodged. In its resolution of 12 April 2016, the Parliament stressed that harmonisation of reception conditions and asylum procedures can avoid stress on countries offering better conditions and are key to responsibility sharing.

In the Parliament, the proposal has been assigned to the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee (LIBE).

The rapporteur Sophia in’t Veld presented her draft report on 18 January 2017.

The LIBE Committee adopted the draft report on 25 April 2017.

The report adopted by the LIBE Committee disagrees with the punitive approach proposed by the Commission towards applicants who try and move illegally to another Member State. Instead it proposes to strengthen measures needed to de-incentivise asylum applicants from leaving the Member State responsible.

According to the report, asylum-seekers should be able to work in the EU no later than two months after applying for asylum, instead of the current nine months. However, Member States may still fill a vacancy through preferential access by their nationals, other EU citizens or by third-country nationals lawfully residing in the country.

As regards detention of asylum-seekers, this should be a measure of last resort and should always be based on a decision by a judicial authority. Detention or any confinement of children, whether unaccompanied or with families, should be prohibited. Member States must ensure that every unaccompanied minor gets a guardian from the moment of his or her arrival in the EU, as well as immediate access to health care and education under the same conditions as national minors.

The report also stresses that extra measures are necessary to protect the fundamental rights of applicants with special needs, and that rapid identification of those applicants and training of personnel in this regard are important.

Following the adoption of the report in the LIBE committee, the EP at the plenary session of 17 May 2017 adopted a decision to enter into interinstitutional negotiations.

On 29 November 2017, the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) endorsed, on behalf of the Council, a mandate  for trilogue negotiations on a proposal for the directive. The main elements of the mandate include:

  • applicants should receive an adequate standard of living and comparable living conditions in all member states;
  • access to reception conditions should be provided in a member state responsible for the application for international protection;
  • applicants should be afforded material reception conditions and access to health care and shall have access to the labour market no later than 9 month after lodging an application;
  • applicants may be required to cover or contribute to the costs of their reception conditions if having sufficient means;
  • member states may restrict applicants’ freedom of movement within their territory, assign them a specific place, define reporting obligations and, in case of risk of absconding, may make use of detention;
  • EU asylum agency shall assist member states in their preparation of contingency plans for the events of disproportionate number of applicants.

On 14 June 2018, the EP and the Council reached a partial provisional agreement on the recast regulation. Under the deal, asylum-seekers will be allowed to work 6 months after requesting asylum, instead of current 9 months. Furthermore, they should get access to language courses from day one. Minors cannot be send to prison, while detention of children will only be possible for family unity and protection purposes. As there was no final endorsement of the agreement in the Council, the Austrian presidency returned the file to the negotiations at the technical level. On 23 January 2019, Coreper confirmed support to the proposed amendments with a view to continuing negotiations with the European Parliament at technical level.

After being blocked since 2018, the Parliament and the Council reached a final agreement on the regulation on resettlement on 15 December 2022. On 8 February 2024, Coreper approved the provisional agreement. It will now have to be formally adopted by the Parliament and the Council. It is expected that this will be before the 2024 European elections. 

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Further reading:

Author: Anja Radjenovic, Members' Research Service, legislative-train@europarl.europa.eu

Visit the European Parliament homepage on Migration.

As of 20/02/2024.