10 January 2014

On 16 December 2013, France’s Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) added Albania, Kosovo, and Georgia to the list of safe countries of origin. Applications submitted by asylum seekers from countries of origin included on such a list will be subject to accelerated procedures, as their claims are considered by OFPRA to be “abusive” or “unfounded”, based on the assumption that in these countries persecution or ill-treatment is unlikely to occur.

In 2012, Kosovo and Albania were removed from the list of safe countries, following a decision by the French Conseil d’Etat due to the political and social instability in both countries. The list now includes 18 countries, i.e. Albania, Armenia, Benin, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cape Verde, Georgia, Ghana, India, Kosovo, FY Republic of Macedonia, Mauritius, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Senegal, Serbia, Tanzania and Ukraine.

There is no common understanding among EU Member States on which countries to consider safe, resulting in diverging treatment of certain nationalities.

Asylum seekers from safe countries of origin face a higher burden of proof as to their risk of persecution or ill-treatment in their respective countries of origin and are also subjected to accelerated procedures. Furthermore, appeals against negative asylum decisions taken within the context of accelerated procedures also lack suspensive effect, i.e. persons may be subject to removal pending their appeal proceedings. In its submission for the Universal Periodic Review of the situation in France by the Human Rights Council in 2013, UNHCR strongly recommended the introduction of suspensive effect in order to render the appeals effective.

Asylum seekers from deemed safe countries benefit from reduced reception conditions as they are not accommodated in regular reception centres for asylum seekers. Asylum seekers in this situation are accommodated under an emergency reception scheme.  Depending on the emergency reception capacity of the different cities, these asylum applicants are often left without housing solutions, having to live on the streets or relying on night shelters. Furthermore, asylum seekers from these countries do not receive an allowance while appealing a negative decision on their case.

The use of the safe country of origin concept is frequent in France. According to OFPRA statistics, in 2012, 91% of applications lodged by asylum seekers from such deemed safe countries of origin had been subjected to an accelerated procedure in France and only 4% had been recognised as being in need of international protection.

Since 29 December 2013, OFPRA relies on this new list of countries of origin.




This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 10 January 2014
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