The European Parliament has finally adopted yesterday (after a summer that has seen again too many people dying in theMediterranean) the report by Cypriot MEP Kyriacos Triantaphyllides on ”enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum”. It is an important sign, furthermore as it has been adopted by an overwhelming majority. The report indeed, although not having legislative impact, contains several good guidelines that could and hopefully should serve as a roadmap for the European legislator in future.
First of all, why an emphasis on solidarity? Because unluckily enough, the EU is good in giving some common rules aimed at problem solving (like the Dublin Convention, governing the allocation of responsibility for asylum applications) but has been yet unable to establish real responsibility sharing mechanisms that would allow – at a time – a better burden sharing for States and a better treatment (what is far more important) for asylum seekers.
And speaking about the devil: in the attempt of identifying the shortcomings of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), a (correct) criticism comes exactly over the Dublin Regulation. Among other consequences, it has led to the unequal treatment of asylum seekers while also having an adverse impact on family reunification and integration. Parliament believes that discussions for the determination of the Member State responsible must take account of the fact that some are already facing disproportionate pressures and some asylum systems are partially or fully dysfunctional.
Indeed while the number of asylum seekers increased during 2011, the last decade has seen a significant overall decrease in the number of asylum applications in the EU and certain Member States face a disproportionate number of requests compared to others (in 2011, ten Member States accounted for more than 90 % of asylum applications): in this frame, the Union should catch the occasion in order to find a more balanced solution for all.
It is as well suggested that infringement proceedings should be more readily used to draw attention to Member States’ responsibilities and their failure to adhere to the existing asylum acquis.
On the specific (bad) situation of Greece, the adopted text recalls that measures to reduce the budget deficit preclude allocating national funds to hire more officials. A solution must be found to enable Greece to fulfil its obligations in this regard, despite the economic crisis.
Some positive proposals are then supported in order to improve the situation in future. The most interesting and innovative is joint processing of asylum applications: applications could be examined by teams of staff pertaining to several Member States. The proposal still needs to be studied, but it could constitute a valuable tool for solidarity and responsibility-sharing in various cases, in particular where Member States face significant or sudden influxes of asylum seekers or there is a substantial backlog of applications which delays and undermines the asylum procedure at the expense of asylum applicants.
Relocation of beneficiaries of international protection and asylum seekers is another possible concrete form of solidarity. So far few Member States have engaged in relocation initiatives, through the European Union‘s Relocation Project for Malta (EUREMA), under which beneficiaries of international protection have been, on voluntary bases, relocated from Malta to other Member States. In order to favour a wider participation in such initiatives, Parliament calls on the Commission to take into consideration, in its legislative proposal for a permanent and effective intra-EU Relocation Mechanism, the use of an EU Distribution Key for the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection, based on appropriate indicators relating to Member States‘ reception and integration capacities, such as Member States‘ GDP, population and surface area and beneficiaries‘ best interest and integration prospects.
Some valuable proposals that will be hopefully followed up.
Next steps: Parliament calls on the Commission to submit a communication on a framework for the transfer of protection of beneficiaries of international protection and mutual recognition of asylum decisions by 2014. They await as well the adoption of the Commission‘s ”Communication on new approaches concerning access to asylum procedures targeting main transit countries” by 2013.
The full text of the report can be read here: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/
Chiara Tamburini, lawyer and political advisor