On 13 July 2016 the European Commission presented its second package to reform the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), containing proposals for a new Recast Reception Directive, a new Qualification Regulation and a new Asylum Procedures Regulation. The Commission also tabled a proposal for an EU Resettlement Framework with the aim to “provide a common approach to safe and legal arrival in the Union for third-country nationals in need of international protection.”

The Commission is proposing to replace the current Qualification Directive and Asylum Procedures Directive with Regulations, which are of general application, leaving little discretion to Member States with regard to their implementation. Of concern in the proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation is the obligation for Member States to apply the “safe third country”, “first country of asylum” and “safe country of origin” concepts – presumptions against which ECRE has spoken out in the past. The proposed Qualification Regulation now includes a compulsory review of the beneficiaries’ protection status on a regular basis and intends to sanction refugees who move to other EU Member States. For instance, the Commission is proposing that the time period after which beneficiaries of international protection are eligible for long-term residence status restarts if the person is found to be irregularly staying in a Member State other than the one that granted international protection.

Member States would also have an obligation to assess the concept of internal protection alternative, something that is optional at present, meaning that an individual could be denied protection if it is deemed that there is a safe place within the applicant’s country of origin where they can reasonably relocate. ECRE wrote a report highlighting the many difficulties associated with the application of this concept.

Issues of concern in the proposed Reception Conditions Directive are the additional grounds for detention, and the proposal to exclude asylum seekers who are not in the responsible Member State from reception conditions.

Positive proposals in the Asylum Procedures Regulation include strengthened rules on the appointment of a guardian for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children within 5 days of their application and free legal assistance at both first and second instances for the examination of asylum claims. However, the proposal foresees the possibility of excluding cases that are not likely to succeed from free legal assistance. The proposal to recast the Reception Conditions Directive  also has some positive proposals such as rules for quicker and more effective access of asylum seekers to the labour market.

Some political groups in the European Parliament and NGOs have already voiced their concerns over some of the proposals and argued that they focus solely on restrictive measures. “These plans focus primarily on the most restrictive roles, from accelerating asylum procedures to safe countries of origin and third countries, or the fight against so-called secondary migration. Although the strengthening of protection for unaccompanied minors is to be welcomed, it does not make up for the lowering of standards in all other areas,” stated S&D MEP Birgit Sippel.

The resettlement proposal denies the possibility for resettlement for refugees that attempted to reach the EU irregularly in the past 5 years, thereby severely restricting the access to asylum. The GUE/NGL political group in the European Parliament stated that the proposal has distorted the concept of resettlement, arguing that it draws on the EU-Turkey deal. “Under the Commission’s proposal, refugees who are joining family members who are already in Europe, would also be counted as ‘resettled refugees’, effectively eliminating family reunification as a separate legal migration route into the EU and lowering the overall number of refugees being resettled in Europe,” stated European Parliament Rapporteur on Resettlement proposal and GUE/NGL MEP, Malin Björk.

The second package follows 2 months after the first package of reforms, which proposed the Dublin IV Regulation, a Regulation for the European Union Asylum Agency and a new Eurodac Regulation.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 15 July 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.