13 June 2014

ECRE has submitted a letter to the European Council in advance of their next meeting on 26-27 June, at which the EU Heads of State and Government will adopt strategic guidelines for further legislative and operational planning in the area of freedom, security and justice. The guidelines will replace the Stockholm Programme, which set out policy in this area for 2010-2014.

The letter proposes five key priorities for strategic guidelines in the field of asylum and migration: legal avenues to the EU for persons in need of international protection; exploring alternatives to the ‘Dublin system’; comprehensive monitoring of Member States’ asylum systems; enhanced solidarity between Member States; EU programmes to support protection capacities in third countries.

ECRE stresses that the strategic guidelines should encourage the use of innovative tools that help to ensure that refugees can find protection in Europe without risking their lives. A multi-faceted approach is needed combining protection sensitive-border controls with a substantial increase of resettlement places in the EU, humanitarian visas and protected entry procedures. The strategic guidelines should set the target of EU countries resettling 20,000 people annually by 2020.

ECRE also calls for the underlying principles of the  Dublin system to be revisited so that the system may be replaced with a responsibility determination procedure which focusses on existing connections between asylum seekers and Member States and asylum seeker’s own preferences and that is linked to a system of fair responsibility-sharing among Member States.

ECRE stresses that Member States’ practices and the quality of their asylum systems must be comprehensively monitored and evaluated with a view to early detection of possible protection gaps and the deployment of appropriate responses and support at national and EU level. ECRE further recommends that the strategic guidelines should re-affirm that solidarity must go hand in hand with responsibility as all Member States have an obligation to provide protection to persons fleeing persecution or serious harm and respect their fundamental rights. solidarity measures such as joint processing of asylum applications within the EU must be properly focused on protecting the rights of asylum seekers and those granted protection.

ECRE strongly opposes any form of joint processing outside the EU that would include the forced transfer of asylum seekers who arrive on EU territory to processing centres outside the EU, and rejects any arrangement that would result in containing persons for prolonged periods in processing centres with sub-standard living conditions and without procedural safeguards. If joint processing is considered, ECRE argues that it should be a tool to facilitate legal access to the EU, must be led by UNHCR and linked to resettlement programmes, and must consider whether the third countries concerned can effectively guarantee adequate reception conditions and procedural safeguards.

Another letter to the European Council, written by Christian NGOs Caritas Europa, the Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, Eurodiaconia, the International Catholic Migration Commission, and Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, calls on the EU to make commitments on the right to family life, labour migration and non-discrimination, and access to international protection.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 June 2014.
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