15 April 2016
The EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) has issued an opinion concerning the European Commission’s proposal to establish an EU common list of safe countries of origin. It considers that this may be an effective tool to process applications for international protection that are likely to be unfounded, provided that all relevant safeguards, including those set out in the recast Asylum Procedures Directive, are in place to ensure that the fundamental rights of those concerned are respected. The Opinion focuses in particular on the right to asylum, non-refoulement, the principle of non-discrimination, the rights of the child, the right to good administration including the right to be heard, and the right to an effective remedy.
FRA considers that the EU common list of safe countries of origin cannot establish an irrefutable presumption of safety. As such applicants must be given an effective opportunity to rebut the presumption of safety in their case, which requires that they are afforded sufficient time to present their case and have access to legal assistance. A personal eligibility interview with trained personnel must be conducted prior to the decision in order to respect the right to be heard.
Unsafe countries should be excluded from the common list, with assessment of a wide range of sources when considering the safety of conditions in countries of origin proposed for the list. There must also be flexibility to react quickly to suspend countries from the list if there are relevant changes in the circumstances. Furthermore, FRA states that appeals against rejections based on the common list of safe countries of origin should have automatic suspensive effect and applicants should have access to legal assistance.
For further information:
- ECRE, “Safe countries of origin” – a safe concept?, September 2015
* This article firstly appeared in the ELENA Weekly Update of 8 April 2016 with minor amendments.