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.
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/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