4 July 2014

An 18 month programme for the work of the Council of the European Union has been prepared by the Italian, Latvian and Luxembourg governments. In the field of asylum, the current Italian Presidency of the Council, along with the future terms of Latvia and Luxembourg, will concentrate on ensuring the implementation of existing EU legislation comprising the Common European Asylum System.

The programme also states that upcoming legislative work will “aim to promote and strengthen a genuine intra-EU solidarity while respecting the principle of responsibility of Member States”. This will include monitoring the Greek national action plan for remedying deficiencies in the asylum system, and active participation in the European Relocation Forum, which brings together relevant stakeholders to discuss the relocation of asylum seekers from one Member State to another.

The Italian Presidency will also seek to hold a policy debate towards the end of 2014 on the feasibility of a ‘European system of border guards’.

Another priority area for the Italian Presidency “will be the complex and still unresolved question of the mutual recognition of national decisions on international protection, including the right to work and settle in any EU Member State”.

UNHCR’s recommendations to the Italian Presidency also refer to mutual recognition of decisions on international protection, underlining that a framework for the transfer of protection could “contribute to alleviating the particular pressures felt by some Member States as a result of granting protection to significant numbers of applicants, by providing beneficiaries of international protection with opportunities to move between Member States, and take up residence in other Member States, subject to the fulfilment of relevant conditions”.

UNHCR also calls for improved access for asylum seekers to European territory, more sharing of responsibility between Member States, better protection for Syria’s refugees, responsiveness in European asylum systems to unforeseen pressures, and effective implementation of EU asylum legislation.

Italy is asked by UNHCR to lead discussions on improving access to EU territory through resettlement, family reunification, humanitarian admission by private sponsorship, the granting of humanitarian visas, and refugee-friendly labour migration schemes. UNHCR also suggests that Italy should consider inviting relevant international organisations and civil society actors to participate in the work of the Task Force Mediterranean, which was established in October 2013 to identify measures to prevent migrant deaths at sea.

UNHCR’s recommendations to develop solidarity within the EU include encouraging Member States to use the provisions of the Dublin III Regulation that reunite family members applying for asylum in different countries. UNHCR would also welcome greater intra-EU relocation to help equalise varying demands on national asylum systems.

Regarding Syrian refugees, UNHCR calls for access to Europe, access to fair and efficient asylum procedures and appropriate reception conditions. Returns to the Syria or neighbouring countries must remain suspended, and EU-wide resettlement of Syrians should reach 30,000 by the end of 2014 and an additional 100,000 in 2015-16.

To improve the flexibility and responsiveness of asylum systems in the EU, UNHCR suggests that ‘contingency and emergency response planning and preparation mechanisms need to be enhanced’, and asks the Italian Presidency to consider developing ‘mobile protection teams … to enable the EU and Member States to respond to [unforeseen pressures on asylum systems] in a more rapid and comprehensive way’.

According to UNHCR, the Italian Presidency of the EU must also maintain oversight of the ongoing implementation of the recast EU asylum legislation, with a particular focus on analysing the impact and any relevant trends in the transposition of the Dublin III Regulation and the recast Qualification Directive. UNHCR also asks Italy to keep under review the use of detention by Member State, in order to ensure that it is in accordance with international law and the recast Reception Conditions Directive.

Alongside the Directives, UNHCR requests the Italian Presidency to oversee ‘the proper implementation of the Regulation on Frontex-coordinated sea border surveillance in order to ensure non-refoulement, rescue at sea and disembarkation in safety’.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 4 July 2014.
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