EU wide harmonisation of refugee and subsidiary protection status  


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  • More convergence in asylum decisions 
  • Reducing incentives to move within the Union 
  • Equality of treatment of beneficiaries of international protection across the Union 

MEPs adopted new qualification regulation to further harmonise the refugee status across the EU and increase legal certainty and transparency.

The current directive will be updated and replaced by a directly applicable regulation in order to further encourage convergence of recognition rates between member states as well as the type of protection status granted.

Recognition of refugee status or subsidiary protection

The qualification regulation sets out criteria for granting and withdrawing international protection status. This can either be the refugee status, which requires a causal link between persecution based on race, religion or belief, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular group and the acts of persecution in the country of origin. A distinct subsidiary protection status applies in cases of persons who do not qualify for refugee status but face a real risk of suffering serious harm if returned to the country of origin, for example due to indiscriminate violence irrespective of personal circumstances, torture, death penalty or execution. The residence status is also extended to family members of the person given protection.

The refugee status is based on the Geneva Refugee Convention, representing the cornerstone of the international legal regime for the protection of refugees. When assessing individual applications for international protection, national authorities should take into account information, reports and common analysis on the situation in countries of origin and guidance notes developed by the EU Asylum Agency as well as relevant recommendations issued by the UNHCR.

The essential component of international protection status is to ensure protection against refoulement or return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution.

Obligation to stay in the EU country of protection

In order to prevent secondary movements, the new rules clearly state that beneficiaries of international protection have to reside in the member state which granted them international protection. They can travel freely within the member states applying Schengen acquis within the authorised periods of stay in accordance with Schengen Borders Code. If a person is found overstaying in another member state without a valid reason, the calculation of the five-year period after which beneficiaries of international protection can apply for Long-term residency status will restart.

Common set of rights

The new rules will unify the duration of residence permits granted for at least 3 years for refugee status and for at least 1 year for subsidiary protection and clarify the rights associated with the international protection status, such as access to education, employment, social assistance or healthcare.


After the vote, rapporteur Matjaž Nemec (S&D, SI) said: "The reformed Qualification regulation is a key puzzle of the future European asylum system which will guarantee uniform assessment of asylum applications across the Union, and will offer the beneficiaries of international protection a fair chance at successful integration into their host communities. Some key achievements include abolishing systematic review of status, broadening the definition of family members and increased protection for minors which collectively reflect our commitment to a compassionate and human-centered approach to asylum policy.”

Next steps

The new rules have to now formally be approved by the Council. The regulation will enter into force twenty days after publication in the EU Official Journal and will start applying two years after. This legislation will not apply in Denmark and Ireland.

The legislation is part of the wider revamp of the EU’s common asylum and migration rules, on which Parliament voted today. You can find more information here.