Commission identifies shortcomings in existing common standards on asylum procedures

The European Commission report on the application of the Directive on minimum standards on procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status shows that procedural guarantees still vary considerably across the EU. Moreover, the vagueness of the standards set by the Directive and flaws in the implementation at national level may lead to administrative errors. The Commission adopted on 21 October 2009 a proposal to recast the Directive in order to remedy to these deficiencies.

The Asylum Procedures Directive was designed to establish minimum standards for fair and efficient procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status.

The Commission report on its implementation highlights that the objective of creating a level playing field with respect to asylum procedures has not been fully achieved. Some of the Directive's optional provisions and derogation clauses have contributed to the proliferation of divergent arrangements across the EU; consequently, procedural guarantees vary considerably between Member States. This is notably the case with respect to the provisions on accelerated procedures, 'safe country of origin', 'safe third country', personal interviews, legal assistance, and access to an effective remedy. A number of cases of incomplete and/or incorrect transposition and flaws in the implementation of the Directive have also been identified.

As a consequence, procedures may be susceptible to administrative error: an important share of decisions taken on individual cases is overturned on appeal, as they are based on criteria which are insufficiently clear and precise.

On the basis of a thorough evaluation of the implementation of the Procedures Directive, the Commission adopted on 21 October 2009 a proposal to recast the Directive in order to remedy to the deficiencies, streamlining and consolidating procedures and improving both the quality of first instance decisions and the overall efficiency of the asylum process across the EU.

After several years working on this issue, EU launches Asylum Support Office to help harmonise procedures in all Member States. It also disseminate best practices, collaborate in implementing solidarity measures and contribute to convergence needed to establish a Common European Asylum System.

Quality and efficiency in the asylum process will be the main theme of a Ministerial Conference in Brussels on 13-14 September 2010 in Brussels. The current report will also serve as a background to the discussions.

The Asylum Procedures

Between 1 January 2008 and 31 December 2009, the number of asylum applications registered by the 26 Member States bound by the APD was 492,995. During the same period, these Member States issued 444,165 first instance decisions and 125,785 appeal decisions.

The deadline for transposition of most of the Directive was 1 December 2007, while Article 15, which concerns legal assistance, had to be transposed by 1 December 2008.

Following expiry of these deadlines, infringement procedures were opened against all Member States that failed to fully communicate their transposition measures: the Commission dispatched 17 letters of formal notice and 5 reasoned opinions.

At present, all Member States have notified complete transposition measures except Ireland. The Commission had taken a decision to refer Belgium and Ireland to the Court of Justice for failure to notify complete transposition measures, and opened infringement proceedings against Greece for its failure to implement properly several provisions of the Directive. In recent days, however, Belgium notified what it considers to be full transposition measures to the Commission. These are currently being reviewed with a view to ascertaining whether they render Belgium's transposition complete.