The European Commission presented on April 6 options on reforming the Common European Asylum System, and developing “safe and legal pathways to Europe”, in response to weaknesses exposed in the system by the refugee crisis.
The EC said that the options it was setting out included options for a fair and sustainable system for allocating asylum applicants among EU countries, a further harmonisation of asylum procedures and standards “to create a level playing field across Europe” and thereby reduce pull factors inducing measures to reduce irregular secondary movements, and and a strengthening of the mandate of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).
At the same time, the Commission is setting out measures to ensure safe and well-managed pathways for legal migration to Europe, the EC said.
EC Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The refugee crisis has shown the weaknesses in our Common European Asylum System.
“Let there be no doubt: those who need protection must continue to receive it, and they should not have to put their lives in the hands of people smugglers. But the current system is not sustainable,” Timmermans said.
He said that different national approaches have fuelled asylum shopping and irregular migration, “while we have seen in the ongoing crisis that the Dublin rules have placed too much responsibility on just a few member states”.
“In the immediate term we have to apply the existing law to stabilise the situation. Beyond that, we need a sustainable system for the future, based on common rules, a fairer sharing of responsibility, and safe legal channels for those who need protection to get it in the EU,” Timmermans said.
The EC said that, based on the feedback it got about its statement, it would come up with appropriate proposals.
It said that it had identified five priority areas where the Common European Asylum System should be structurally improved.
The first was establishing a sustainable and fair system for determining the EU country responsible for asylum seekers.
“To deal better with a high number of arrivals and ensure a fair sharing of responsibility, the Commission could propose to amend the Dublin Regulation, either by streamlining and supplementing it with a corrective fairness mechanism or by moving to a new system based on a distribution key.”
Second was achieving greater convergence and reducing asylum shopping: “The Commission intends to propose a further harmonisation of asylum procedures, to ensure a more humane and equal treatment across the EU and reduce pull factors that draw people to a small number of member states”.
The Commission said that it could propose a new regulation to replace the Asylum Procedures Directive, and a new regulation to replace the Qualification Directive. Targeted modifications of the Reception Conditions Directive could also be proposed.
Third was preventing secondary movements within the EU, the EC said.
“To ensure that the Dublin System is not disrupted by abuses and asylum shopping, the Commission could propose measures to discourage and sanction irregular secondary movements. In particular, certain rights could be made conditional upon registration, fingerprinting and stay in the EU country assigned to the applicant.”
The fourth priority was a new mandate for the EU’s asylum agency.
“The Commission could propose to amend the European Asylum Support Office’s mandate so it can play a new policy-implementing role as well as a strengthened operational role.
“This could include operating the distribution mechanism under a reformed Dublin System, monitoring the compliance of member states with EU asylum rules, identifying measures to remedy shortcomings, and a capacity to take operational measures in emergency situations.”
Finally, another priority was reinforcing the Eurodac system, the EC said.
The Eurodac system enables EU countries to help identify asylum applicants and persons who have been apprehended in connection with an irregular crossing of an external border of the Union. By comparing fingerprints, EU countries can determine whether an asylum applicant or a foreign national found illegally present within an EU country has previously claimed asylum in another EU country or whether an asylum applicant entered the Union territory unlawfully.
Eurodac consists of a central unit within the Commission, equipped with a computerised central database for comparing fingerprints, and a system for electronic data transmission between EU countries and the database.
“To support the application of a reformed Dublin System, the Commission could propose to adapt the Eurodac system and could also propose to expand its purpose, facilitating the fight against irregular migration, better retention and sharing of fingerprints, and support to returns,” the Commission said.
(Photo: UNHCR/M Henley)