13 March 2015
A new ECRE report provides guidance to Member States and asylum practitioners on how the provisions of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights can be used to ensure a more rights based implementation of the standards contained in the Directive regulating the reception and detention of asylum seekers in the EU. The Charter, as informed by the case law from the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), can assist in ensuring that applicants for international protection receive an ‘adequate standard of living’; a standard that Member States are required to provide under the Directive.
The report looks at a number of areas covered by the Reception Conditions Directive, and its recast, including reception and detention conditions, health care and the special reception needs of persons seeking international protection and how these topics can be informed by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. It also examined some Member State practices with regard to these topics.
The report found that although the recast Reception Conditions Directive requires Member States to offer enhanced assistance for persons with special reception needs, there is an ad hoc approach by Member States to ensure applicants receive the extra assistance they need. In some instances the extra assistance merely amounts to applicants receiving accommodation, something that should be provided to everyone.
The report also looked at detention conditions that applicants for international protection are subject to, which include being placed in prisons and police stations as well as detention centres. The report found that in several Member States, asylum seekers face overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions, with little access to the outdoors. Finally, the study shows that in numerous Member States detainees have claimed that they are victims of abuse, and sometimes even violence by the staff working in the facilities, often with little follow-up or redress. Given the serious nature of these allegations further research into violence in detention centres is warranted.
It is ECRE’s view that, as a rule, asylum seekers should not be detained, but if detention must occur it should only be used as a last resort in exceptional cases, and, where necessary, on the basis of an individual assessment where less coercive methods cannot be effectively applied.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights is a legally binding instrument that Member States must adhere to when implementing and interpreting the Reception Conditions Directive and its recast.
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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 March 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.