Asylum: S&D Group votes to end 'lottery' for refugees
The European Socialists and Democrats today in Strasbourg backed a reform of the EU asylum instruments. Procedures, reception standards and decisions on granting protection currently vary considerably from one country to another, making the asylum system a 'lottery' for refugees.
S&D vice-president Sylvie Guillaume, who was among the leading negotiators of this reform, said:
"Over the years, the old system has proved to be inefficient, dysfunctional and unfair for both asylum seekers and states. Unfortunately, EU governments have so far only seemed concerned about reducing their financial and administrative burdens and the risk of abuses.
"The reform of the Dublin mechanism and the Asylum Procedures Directive approved today should ensure better protection standards for asylum seekers. We particularly welcome a series of new provisions such as the guarantee of a personal interview for all applicants, a six-month time limit for decisions on asylum applications, reinforced protection for minors, provision for decisions to be suspended while appeals are processed and free legal assistance. But it is only a first step.
"One of the crucial challenges ahead is the need to create an efficient responsibility-sharing regime that promotes effective solidarity between member states. I am not sure that the new early-warning system will be up to the challenge. We should redouble our efforts to ensure that the Common European Asylum System finally becomes a reality.
"The success or failure of this system will depend on the way it is applied and implementation must be closely monitored. This is particularly the case for the guarantees for unaccompanied minors, the effectiveness of the identification mechanism for vulnerable persons, the quality of personal interviews and the application of accelerated and border procedures. Enough talk, let's act!"
Commenting on his experiences visiting refugee camps in Europe, S&D MEP Antonio Masip, the Parliament's rapporteur on standards for the reception of asylum seekers, said:
"Refugees escaping from persecution in their countries cannot be treated as criminals and end up in jail in Europe.
"Detaining asylum seekers should be a last resort. On the contrary, we must help asylum seekers to be self-sufficient by giving them access to the labour market within nine months of their asylum application being introduced."
On the EU database on asylum applicants (Eurodac), S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs Claude Moraes said:
"Eurodac's primary goal is the efficient management of asylum applications, not police investigations – as the Council wanted.
"The S&Ds have worked hard to ensure that any access for law enforcement or Europol is only granted as a last resort with the strictest safeguards and with the approval of an independent authority.
"The status quo is not good enough. Across the EU we have a patchwork of badly implemented or completely disregarded asylum rules. Taken as a whole this package provides real improvements to the daily realities of asylum seekers in Europe.
"However, it is critical that the European Commission and the European Asylum Support Office closely monitor the situation to ensure the member states' implement these new rules properly."