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Asylum Procedures

A refugee's chances of gaining protection depend greatly upon the procedures used to assess asylum cases. Even the most compelling claim for international protection can fail, if it is not fully and fairly considered. Border and immigration authorities must understand the obligation to receive asylum seekers, while legal aid and interpretation services must be available to asylum seekers.

Fair and thorough procedures benefit both refugees and host states by producing high quality asylum decisions at first instance. A right to appeal asylum decisions, and the right to remain in the host country during the appeals process, provide safeguards to ensure that first instance decisions are legally correct. Accelerated procedures should generally not be applied, except to speed up the granting of protection to those in particular need of it.

EU Rules

On 1 December 2005 the EU Asylum Procedures Directive came into force. It was the fifth piece of legislation flowing from the asylum agenda of the Amsterdam Treaty. The deadline for transposition of the Directive, which applies to all Member States except Denmark, passed in December 2007.

The purpose of the Directive is to establish minimum standards for Member State procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status. It deals with issues such as access to procedures (including border procedures), detention, the examination of applications, personal interviews, and legal assistance. It also defines concepts such as the first country of asylum, safe countries of origin, safe third countries, and European safe third countries.

In ECRE's view the Directive falls short of standards conducive to a full and fair examination of an asylum claim. For example, it provides only severely limited rights to remain pending the examination of an application, to a personal interview, and to free legal assistance.

Further issues of concern include inadequate safeguards for detention, the significant scope for accelerated procedures, failure to require that appeals have suspensive effect, and the sanctioning of border procedures that derogate from the principles and guarantees of the Directive itself. Finally, international refugee law properly focuses on individual circumstances, making the Directive's inclusion of ‘safe third country' and ‘safe countries of origin' concepts alarming.

ECRE is also looking into the new Commission Proposal to recast the Asylum Procedures Directive. The proposal was presented on the 1 June 2011, and in the Commission's view should aim at finding an agreement to achieve a Common European Asylum System before 2012. This new proposal replace the 2009 unsuccessful attempt to recast the Asylum procedures Directive (read ECRE Comments on the 2009 Proposal).


ECRE's position

► Everyone who applies for asylum in the EU should be able to access an asylum procedure as soon as they arrive.

► Everyone should have the right to stay until a final decision has been reached on their case. In order to receive a fair hearing they must also have the right to an interview, interpreter and legal advice.

► Asylum expert teams should be set up to channel resources to countries with less developed asylum infrastructures.

► The quality of asylum decision-making should be improved by sharing expertise, information and best practices among Member States.

► The adoption of minimum standards and the establishment of quality assessment mechanisms as well as the involvement of UNHCR, NGOs and other independent experts, can help raise the quality of asylum decision-making.


Policy Papers Information Note on Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and ofthe Council of 26 June 2013 on common procedures forgranting and withdrawing international protection (recast)
ECRE Comments and Recommendations on the Amended Commission Proposal to recast the Asylum Procedures Directive (COM(2011) 319 final)
ECRE Comments on the European Commission Proposal to recast the Asylum Procedures Directive
Comments on the Communication from the Commission on a more Efficient Common European Asylum System
ECRE Information Note on the Asylum Procedures Directive (2005/85/EC)
The Way Forward: 'Towards Fair and Efficient Asylum Systems in Europe'
Comments by ECRE on the Proposal on Minimum Standards on Procedures in Member States
'Broken Promises - Forgotten Principles': ECRE Evaluation of the Development of EU Minimum Standards for Refugee Protection
Guidelines on Fair and Efficient Procedures for Determining Refugee Status

Related articles

Asylum Procedures


Press releases

► 01.04.2004 Concern at the Expected Agreement on Asylum Measures in Breach of International Law
► 01.03.2004 ECRE calls on EU to scrap Key Asylum Proposal

ECRE Actions

New practitioners’ tool on how Charter of Fundamental Rights can be applied to asylum procedural law
ECRE/ELENA Information Note on Syria
AIDA Report “Not There Yet: An NGO perspective on Challenges to a Fair and Effective Common European Asylum System”
ECRE Letter to Commissioner Malmstrom regarding transfer of competences in Greece
Renewing the Promise of Protection: ECRE's Recommendations to the Brussels European Council
ECRE Recommendations to the Justice and Home Affairs Council on the "Safe Third Country" concept
ECRE's Recommendations to the Asylum Working Party