Monday

22nd May 2017

EU lawmakers reinforce asylum seekers' rights

  • The European Parliament voted to prevent member states from transferring asylum seekers to countries unable to cope with human rights (Photo: Ikolas Kominis - Studio Kominis)

MEPs have voted to reinforce asylum seekers' rights in the EU after four years of talks with member states.

The decision, which came in the civil liberties' committee on Wednesday (19 September) and which will become EU law if passed by plenary in December, concerns changes to the so-called Dublin II agreement.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

"[It] will legally clarify member states' responsibility towards asylum seekers who relocate to Europe," said Swedish liberal Cecilia Wikstrom, who drafted the parliament's position.

Dublin II determines which member state is responsible for processing asylum claims and is meant to prevent asylum seekers from making multiple applications.

Under the current version, if an asylum seeker enters Europe through Italy but travels to the Netherlands and files for asylum, the Dutch authorities can send him back because Italy was his point of entry. Italy would then have to process his claim and provide for his care.

Last year, the EU registered 302,000 applications for international protection, an increase of 16.2 percent compared to 2010. More than 80,000 people, mostly from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, were granted protection.

But under Dublin II, refugees have found themselves shuffled off to locations where conditions are sometimes unsanitary, over-crowded and treatment by local authorities is harsh.

Meanwhile, processing the claims and deciding who should do it has left many asylum seekers floating in a legal limbo.

In one case, the European Court of Human Rights in January 2011 reprimanded Belgium for sending an Afghan asylum seeker to Greece where his rights risked being violated. Greece, ruled the court, cannot guarantee refugees' fundamental rights.

Meanwhile, Denmark and Finland suspended transfer of asylum seekers to Italy for the same reason.

The Strasbourg human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, recently slammed Italy for its mistreatment of African refugees.

Under the parliament's compromise proposal, member states cannot transfer an asylum seeker if he risks "inhuman or degrading treatment" in the receiving state. If fundamental rights cannot be guaranteed, then the member state must halt the transfer and process the asylum claim and provide care.

Authorities would also be required to interview each asylum applicant, provide a response within three months on any transfer decision, and detain only those who pose a "severe" risk of absconding. Detention would also be limited to three months.

Each asylum seeker would be entitled to appeal any transfer decision and receive free-legal assistance upon request in a language they understand.

They would remain in the member state pending their transfer appeal and unaccompanied minors would have the right to reunite with relatives aside from their immediate family.

The text also introduced an "early warning mechanism" that would act to prevent problems experienced by member states from becoming unmanageable.

The Malta-based European Asylum Support Office (Easo) would be tasked to identify the problems. Should it find flaws, then the member state would have to come up with plans to address the issue within three months. The European Commission or the Easo would then monitor its implementation.

If the new-model Dublin II becomes EU law, then it would only apply to those requesting asylum six months after it comes into force and it will not be retroactive.

EU home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom welcomed the vote and said in a statement that it was "a big step towards a common asylum system, whereby all asylum seekers can get a fair and proper assessment of their case."

Russians top EU asylum seekers

The EU saw the highest number of asylum seekers come from Russia at the beginning of this year, with Syrians following closely behind.

EU and US discuss in-flight laptop ban

A meeting between US and EU officials in Brussels on possibly imposing a laptop ban on commercial flights was described by one senior Trump administration official as "robust".

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

US questions visa waivers for EU nationals

A Republican congressman heading a taskforce on denying terrorists entry into the United States says that EU nationals pose a security risk, as some have fought alongside jihadists and wouldn't need visas to enter the US.

EU keeps visa-free travel for US visitors

Efforts by the European Parliament to scupper visa-free travel for Americans, in light of US restrictions on some EU states, were dashed on Tuesday by the European Commission.

EU visa waiver looms for Russia-annexed Crimeans

Visa liberalisation for Ukrainians entering the EU will also apply to inhabitants of the peninsula taken over by Moscow in 2014. But the issue poses administrative as well as political problems.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  2. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  3. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  4. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  5. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  6. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  7. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  8. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  10. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  12. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases