Emmaus Europe is campaigning for increased protection for asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution in their home countries.
As part of the Stockholm Programme setting the EU’s justice, freedom and security priorities for the 2010-2014 period, the asylum package is aiming to establish a common European asylum system by 2012. The package contains a raft of seven regulations and directives, which are currently being amended in the European Parliament and Council, following proposals made by the European Commission.
Since 2010, Emmaus Europe has been focusing its campaign on the proposals for a recast of the qualification directive relating to the conditions that asylum seekers need to meet to be given international protection, and the procedures directive relating to the procedure for granting and removing international protection. Our initiative aims to campaign for increased protection for asylum seekers who are fleeing persecution in their home countries (see the March 2011 Emmaus Europe open letter).
The MEP Jean Lambert (Greens / EFA, UK) submitted a draft version of the qualification directive on 28 September 2010. It aims to widen international protection status to cover more people, while moving to harmonise Member State regulations on this issue. The proposal will be voted on at a plenary session of the European Parliament on 4 July 2011, before being submitted to the Council as part of the co-decision procedure.
When the draft was examined by the parliamentary LIBE committee (Civil liberties, justice and home affairs) on 24 May 2011, the MEPs and the EU Council and European Commission representatives particularly stressed the need to have a clear definition of the ‘family members’ who could benefit from family reunification. The Council representative confirmed that an agreement should be reached swiftly at the first reading before the end of the Hungarian presidency of the Council (30 June 2011).
As for the procedures directive, the report submitted by Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, France), was adopted by the European Parliament at a plenary session on 6 April 2011 by 314 votes to 306 with 48 abstentions.
It provides a number of procedural guarantees such as the right to free legal support from the start of the procedure and a framework for appeal periods. Nevertheless, European law has managed to get accelerated asylum application examination procedures reinforced, with the majority of asylum seekers being presumed to be potential fraudsters.
The document is currently with the Council, which plans to examine it on 9 June 2011. However, as reported by Sylvie Guillaume on her blog and as highlighted by Jacques Barrot during his speech to the 4th Assembly of Emmaus Europe on 11 May, Council discussions on some of the asylum package texts have reached a deadlock. The Council of the European Union is the body that represents the governments of the Member States. They are therefore at the root of the paralysis of the asylum package adoption process.
In response to the EU Council paralysing the decision-making process, the European Commission, through the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström, proposed a new procedures directive text on 1 June 2011, taking into consideration the amendments approved in a vote by the Parliament on 6 April 2011 and the Council’s position. A new draft for the reception directive regarding asylum seeker reception conditions in the Member States was also presented.
These two proposals will be presented to the EU Council on 9 June 2011 and will be examined in the second half of 2011 during the Polish presidency of the EU.
In this context and as highlighted by the MEPs and particularly Carmen Romero Lopez (S&D, Spain) at the meeting of the LIBE committee on 24 May 2011, the aim is to ensure that the vote on the qualification directive enables the examination of the asylum package to be restarted. The goal will then be to get the reception and procedures directives approved before envisaging the adoption of the amended Dublin II regulation, the key component of the European asylum system.
Consequently, and in accordance with the decisions taken at the 4th Regional Assembly of Emmaus Europe, Emmaus Europe’s campaigning work on the right of asylum will continue over the coming years.
The reluctance of national governments to further open up their borders to people fleeing all kinds of persecution must be overcome in order to enable asylum legislation to be truly harmonised. However, legislation must be harmonised upwards, meaning that it is brought into line with the legislation that best protects asylum seekers’ fundamental rights, and notably human dignity.
It is high time that Fortress Europe collapsed. Indeed, particularly through its borders agency FRONTEX, Fortress Europe is doing everything possible to prevent migrants, whoever they may be, from entering European territory, in defiance of international standards on human rights and the Geneva Convention on refugee status.