In December 2011 the new text of the Qualification Directive was published in the Official Journal of the European Union. Member States must transpose the Directive into their national law by 21 December 2013. The UK, Ireland and Denmark have opted out of this Directive.
The new Directive aims at addressing deficiencies identified during the first phase of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and further harmonizing standards of protection. The text sets standards and criteria for the identification of people in need of international protection in the EU and the content of rights granted to them either as refugees or as beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. It improves the current minimum standards laid out in the Qualification Directive in a number of key areas such as a greater acknowledgment of gender-specific forms of persecution and the inclusion of gender identity as a potential ground for protection.
The Directive also includes other areas of improvement such as the commitment to take the best interest of the child into account and it approximates the content of rights granted to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection and refugees in areas such as access to employment and to health care.
ECRE will monitor its implementation and where necessary will issue recommendations to Member States on how to implement this Directive in a manner, which ensures full consistency with international human rights and refugee law and standards.
Previously Member States implemented the 2004 version of the Qualification Directive (Directive 2004/85/EC) however it should be noted that those minimum standards will remain applicable in the UK and Ireland.
The 1951 Refugee Convention envisages protection for any person unable to return to his/her country due to "a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion."
Even where this standard is not met, European states may not return individuals in breach of international obligations such as the absolute prohibitions on torture, execution or inhuman or degrading treatment contained in the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
However, a person's chances of being granted asylum still vary hugely according to the country where the asylum seeker has his or her asylum claim processed. For example, in 2009, Iraqis who fled their home country and ended up in Germany had a 85% of being recognised as a refugee at first instance and those who applied for asylum in Slovenia did not get a protection status at all.
To harmonize the way Member States provide refugee protection, and to require Member States to provide "subsidiary protection" to people at risk of serious harm, the EU introduced the Qualification Directive, which sets minimum rights that persons qualifying for international protection should receive.
In April 2004 the EU introduced the first Qualification Directive, one of five legal instruments that make up the EU acquis (body of law) on asylum. The Directive, which applies to all Member States except Denmark, came into force in October 2006.
The Qualification Directive has raised standards by for an example introducing a European subsidiary protection and by requiring the recognition of non-state actors of persecution, but in many other respects it has encouraged Members States to lower their standards.
Related Reports & Position Papers
► The Impact of the EU Qualification Directive on International Protection
► Survey on Subsidiary/Complementary Forms of Protection in EU Member States
► ECRE's Position on Exclusion Clauses from Refugee Status
► ECRE's Position on the Interpretation of Article 1 of the Refugee Convention
► ECRE's Position on Complementary Protection
Related ELENA Papers
► ELENA Background Paper on the Exclusion and Cessation clauses of the Geneva Convention
► ELENA Research Paper on Non-State Agents of Persecution
► ELENA Research Paper on the Application of the Concept of Internal Protection Alternative
► ELENA Research Paper on Sexual Orientation as a Ground for Recognition of Refugee Status