23 October 2015

ECRE has published comments on the European Commission’s proposal for a Regulation establishing a common EU list of ‘safe countries of origin’ and amending the recast Asylum Procedures Directive. In the document, ECRE seriously questions the compatibility of the ‘safe country of origin’ concept with international refugee law, finding it at odds with the obligation on States under the 1951 Refugee Convention to treat refugees without discrimination based on their country of origin. ECRE is opposed to the adoption of a common EU list of ‘safe countries of origin’ as proposed by the Commission.

The use of ‘safe country’ lists, at national or EU level, contributes to a practice of stereotyping certain applications on the basis of their nationality and increases the risk for applicants coming from a specific country of being denied a thorough examination of their individual cases.

The proposed Regulation raises important protection concerns and may result in a ‘race to the bottom’ as regards safeguards available for applicants in the asylum procedures, while the added value of the proposal from a harmonisation perspective is likely to be very minimal.

ECRE believes that this is part of a worrying development in EU asylum law, to increasingly associate the nationality or profile of an asylum applicant to a decision of a manifestly unfounded application, without prior examination of the asylum application.

ECRE presented suggestions for the European Commission to amend the proposed Regulation and the Asylum Procedures Directive, in case of adoption of the proposal:

  • Ensure that asylum seekers originating from a country presumed safe have access to an appeal with automatic suspensive effect;
  • Strengthen the mechanism to suspend countries from the common list by requiring that the Commission’s substantiated assessment is informed by all sources of information, including from NGOs and the expert opinion of UNHCR in particular; and
  • Delete references to some of the indicators used by the Commission, such as membership of the Council of Europe and status as an EU Accession country, to argue the inclusion of countries in the common list as these indicators do not serve as evidence of the observance of human rights in those countries.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 23 October 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.