An AIDA legal briefing published today examines the use of special procedures to accelerate, prioritise and fast-track asylum applications in European countries. Practice reveals a wide diversity and complexity of procedural models, tools and concepts across national systems.

Several countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany have set up specific “track” or “cluster” systems to  manage cases efficiently. The channelling of applications under specific procedures tends to run in parallel to, or even exceed, regular legal frameworks – a trend illustrated in practices of nationality-based differentiation, which often depend on administrative practice and circumvent the framework of the “safe country of origin” concept under the recast Asylum Procedures Directive. Transparency and predictability of the procedures, as well as essential safeguards for the individuals navigating them, are to some extent jeopardised at the altar of efficiency.

The briefing also discusses the need for procedural safeguards and necessary guarantees for asylum seekers undergoing accelerated, prioritised or fast-track procedures. The recommendation is an emphasis on sufficient time for preparing for the examination of the asylum application, reasonable deadlines and suspensive effect of appeals against negative decisions, as well as legal assistance from the outset of the process.

These considerations should inform the negotiations on the proposal for an Asylum Procedures Regulation, which envisions a substantial transformation of European asylum procedures in the name of further harmonisation and efficiency. The lessons from Europe’s fragmented procedural landscape are crucial to a better understanding of the challenges at hand: speedy decision-making can only be a realistic target where asylum procedures are straightforward, transparent, easily comprehensible and navigated with appropriate support and legal assistance from the outset.

Photo: (cc) Thomas Rousing 2011