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Sunday, 18 September 2011

EU 'watering down' on asylum protections criticised

EU flag at the European ParliamentImage by European Parliament via Flickr
ECRE has published a detailed legal analysis [PDF] of the key provisions of the Amended Commission's proposal to recast the Asylum Procedures Directive [PDF] published on 1 June 2011.

ECRE regrets to see that the amended Commission recast proposal contains a watering-down of some of the crucial elements of the 2009 Commission recast proposal [PDF], that was at a deadlock within the Council. ECRE considers that, in practice, a number of these changes would create greater inefficiency as well as undermine essential procedural safeguards.

For instance, more flexibility is built in for member states when they are confronted with large numbers of asylum applications to derogate from procedural standards regarding: registration of applications within maximum 72 hours; the authority responsible for conducting personal interviews; and the conclusion in principle within six months of an asylum procedure.

If member states are given the flexibility to extend the time limit for registration of the asylum applicant up to seven working days on the basis of vaguely defined criteria, such as the fact that a large number of third country nationals request international protection simultaneously, this increases the risk of potential asylum seekers being returned before being registered as applicants at all.

The new proposal also allows for legal assistance for asylum seekers to be provided by government officials or specialised services of the State. This is a step backwards even with regards to the current directive, as it does not ensure that asylum seekers will get independent legal assistance.

ECRE also regrets that the amended Commission recast proposal leaves the provisions regarding safe countries of origin, safe third countries and European safe third countries largely untouched thus ignoring their potentially devastating impact on access to protection for asylum seekers. The proposal would allow member states to deny people access to the asylum procedure on the assumption that they can find protection in another country through which they might have transited before coming to the EU.

ECRE welcomes in general the principle of frontloading and robust decision-making in the first instance that the amended proposal continues to promote. However, ECRE reminds that frontloading is not about the acceleration of procedures for its own sake and requires having all necessary safeguards from the very start of the asylum procedure.

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