The European Parliament's committee on civil liberties, justice and home affairs today backed a new set of EU rules on asylum drafted by S&D vice-president Sylvie Guillaume. The rules aim to strengthen the rights of asylum seekers and oblige EU countries to decide on asylum applications within six months.
S&D MEP Claude Moraes also fought to ensure the committee adopted a number of provisions to limit the use of Eurodac, the EU fingerprint database for identifying asylum seekers and irregular immigrants.
In 2012 over 300,000 refugees (out of 10 million worldwide) applied for asylum in the EU. The way they were treated varied widely from country to country and their chances of getting protection depended on the EU country involved. The same was true of reception conditions, which ranged from fair and satisfactory to inhuman and degrading.
As well as introducing the six-month time limit for processing asylum seekers' applications, the new draft provisions also give all applicants the right to a personal interview, provide for compulsory and appropriate training for all staff involved, ensure free basic legal assistance during the first steps of the procedure, and include a new mandatory mechanism to identify vulnerable persons and provide them with adequate support.
Following the vote, Sylvie Guillaume, S&D vice-president and the Parliament's lead negotiator on the revision of the Asylum Procedures Directive, said:
"There was an urgent need to reform the previous legislation – condemned as "a catalogue of the worst national practices"– which set very low standards and granted EU countries too broad a discretion on their policies.
"Despite strong opposition from EU governments, concerned only with reducing their financial and administrative burden and the risk of abuses, the S&D Group has succeeded in getting clear and simplified rules to guarantee migrants more effective access to protection. Asylum is a fundamental right and granting it is an international obligation.
"The success or failure of this system will obviously depend on the way it is applied and implementation must be closely monitored. This is particularly the case in relation to guarantees for unaccompanied minors, the effectiveness of the identification mechanism for vulnerable persons, and the quality of personal interviews."
Commenting on the adoption of the new Eurodac draft regulation, Parliament rapporteur and S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs Claude Moraes, said:
"Eurodac is a database for asylum management, not for police purposes.
"Law enforcement authorities can access the database but only as an absolute last resort and if they provide, among other things, adequate reasons to believe that a suspect is an asylum seeker. The authorities who verify this request must be independent.
"The S&D Group has also insisted that the European Commission carries out a review on the use of Eurodac by national authorities, to ensure that this system does not turn into a tool for stigmatising asylum seekers."
Facts and figures
The European Parliament will vote on the so-called 'asylum package' (asylum procedures, reception conditions and the Dublin and Eurodac regulations) during its June plenary.
S&D Press contact: Paolo Alberti
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