Safe country of origin lists must not prejudice individuals’ right to claim asylum
The European Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee today voted in favour of the creation of a common EU list of safe countries of origin that will replace existing national lists within three years. This will help member states to process certain asylum claims faster and with greater consistency. The S&D Group has ensured that these new rules will not damage asylum seekers’ fundamental rights and that the methodology and criteria for designating or reviewing the list are clearly defined and rigorously applied.
S&D MEP Sylvie Guillaume, the Parliament’s rapporteur for the proposal, said:
“Having an EU list of safe countries of origin can help reduce differing practices and ensure that decisions are consistent across the EU. At the moment we have a messy situation where countries have separate lists, with different countries included. This system would be replaced with a single EU list, with a transition period of three years.
“However, if the rules governing what is a safe country of origin are not clear and the rights of asylum seekers not fully respected, there can be concerns that the lists prejudice an individual’s fundamental right to claim asylum. The text adopted ensures that these concerns are addressed. It is critical that the concept is only applied on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances of each asylum seeker.
“We have also ensured that the list will be flexible - so that if there is a sudden deterioration of the situation in a country on the list it can be quickly suspended. We have also improved the method by which countries are designated as safe. This will notably include working closely with third parties such as NGOs or the UNHCR to ensure that the designation of safe countries of origin involves a clear and accountable process and is based on precise and up-to-date information from a range of sources.
Birgit Sippel, S&D Spokesperson for civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:
“It is vital that an individual’s fundamental right to claim asylum is not damaged by the fact their country appears on a safe country of origin list. It is critical that the concept is only applied on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual circumstances of each asylum seeker. This requires the full application of the safeguards already foreseen in the Asylum Procedures Directive, in particular the opportunity of a personal interview. In some instances, we have strengthened the existing rules, reinforcing the protection of minors, minority or other groups of persons at risk. This is essential as some countries may be deemed safe but in fact not be so for specific minorities or groups of person.”
Note to editors
Under the EU Asylum Procedures Directive, member states may apply specific fast-track processing rules where an asylum seeker is a national of a country that is considered a safe country of origin in view of its stable democratic system and compliance with international human rights treaties. Currently, 12 EU countries have such lists, but they are not coordinated, which can lead to different treatment of similar applications.
The European Commission proposed in September to establish a common list, which included Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.