What is asylum?
Asylum is a fundamental right, which is granted to people fleeing persecution or harm in their own country and therefore the people are in need of international protection.
Protecting these people is a common obligation, which is recognised first in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees.
Why is there a Common European Asylum System?
As the EU is an area of open borders and freedom of movement, EU Member States have a shared responsibility to accommodate asylum seekers, ensuring that asylum seekers are treated fairly and that their case is examined equally. Thus the procedures must at the same time be fair, effective and hard to abuse, so that asylum seekers have equal opportunities throughout the EU. Thus the EU have established a Common European Asylum System.
First phase (1999 – 2005)
During the first phase several legislative measures were adopted to harmonise common standards for asylum seekers. Additionally the financial solidarity was strengthened by creating the European Refugee Fund. The conflicts in the former Yugoslavia and in Kosovo in the 1990s triggered the introduction of the Temporary Protection Directive in 2001, which allowed a common EU Member to handle a mass influx of displaced people unable to return to their country of origin. People benefitting from temporary protection have harmonised rights for the duration of their protection i.e. a residence permit, appropriate information on temporary protection, access to employment, accommodation or housing, social welfare or means of subsistence, access to medical treatment, education for minors, opportunities for families to reunite in certain circumstances, and guarantees for access to the normal asylum procedure. The EU must also return displaced persons to their country of origin and exclude persons, who have committed serious crime or who threaten to security, from the benefit of temporary protection. Furthermore, the EU tries to improve legal migration, so that more highly qualified workers, students and researchers enter the EU and live there. Therefore the development of the EU improves. However, the EU must create partnerships and dialogues with Non-EU countries so that a framework for the EU’s external migration policy is built.
After the completion of the first phase and a following period of reflection the Policy Plan on Asylum was presented in June 2008. This plan states, that 1. bringing more harmonisation to EU States’ asylum legislation 2. improving practical cooperation and 3. increased solidarity and sense of responsibility among EU States, and between the EU and non-EU countries.
In order to treat asylum seekers equally, new rules have been passed i.e. the revised Asylum Procedures Directive, the revised Reception Conditions Directive, the revised Qualification Directive, the revised Dublin Regulation and the revised EURODAC Regulation.
The revised Asylum Procedures Directive
The revised Asylum Procedures Directive aims at fairer, quicker and better quality asylum decisions. Asylum seekers with special needs will receive the necessary support to explain their claim and in particular there will be greater protection of unaccompanied minors and victims of torture.
Cases that are unlikely to be well-founded can be dealt with in special procedures ('accelerated' and 'border' procedures). There are clear rules on when these procedures can be applied, to avoid well-founded cases being covered. Unaccompanied children seeking asylum and victims of torture benefit from special treatment in this respect.
Moreover, rules on appeals in front of courts are much clearer than previously. Currently, EU law is vague and national systems do not always guarantee enough access to courts. As a result, many cases end up in with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which is costly and creates legal uncertainty. The new rules fully comply with fundamental rights and should reduce pressure on the Strasbourg court.
Member States will also become better equipped to deal with abusive claims, in particular with repetitive applications by the same person. Someone who does not need protection will no longer be able to prevent removal indefinitely by continuously making new asylum applications.
The revised Reception Conditions Directive
The revised Reception Conditions Directive ensures that there are humane material reception conditions (such as housing) for asylum seekers across the EU and that the fundamental rights of the concerned persons are fully respected. It also ensures that detention is only applied as a measure of last resort.
The revised Qualification Directive
The revised Qualification Directive clarifies the grounds for granting international protection and therefore will make asylum decisions more robust. It will also improve the access to rights and integration measures for beneficiaries of international protection.
It approximates to a large extent the rights granted to all beneficiaries of international protection (recognised refugees and recipients of so-called “subsidiary protection”) on access to employment and health care. It also extends the duration of validity of residence permits for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection.
The revised Dublin Regulation
The revised Dublin Regulation enhances the protection of asylum seekers during the process of establishing the State responsible for examining the application, and clarifies the rules governing the relations between states. It creates a system to detect early problems in national asylum or reception systems, and address their root causes before they develop into fully fledged crises.
The revised EURODAC Regulation
The revised EURODAC Regulation will allow law enforcement access to the EU database of the fingerprints of asylum seekers under strictly limited circumstances in order to prevent, detect or investigate the most serious crimes, such as murder, and terrorism.
The system is still not transparent to outsiders, so no one can say, whether the CEAS is equal and fair enough.