24 January 2014

On 21 January, ECRE submitted its recommendations on the future of EU asylum and migration policies in the context of a consultation on the EU’s Strategic Guidelines in the area of Home Affairs following the end of the Stockholm Programme in December 2014.

ECRE emphasised that the EU must address the deaths of migrants at sea and arrivals by sea in its future Home Affairs policies. ECRE urges that the EU Strategic Guidelines should call for the adoption of an Action Plan on Mediterranean Sea crossings which has saving lives at sea and access to protection as its first priority. This Action Plan must include concrete measures to enhance the overall search and rescue capacity of EU Member States and Frontex and to alleviate additional pressure on the Member State of disembarkation through the use of appropriate solidarity measures that fully respect the fundamental rights of asylum seekers, refugees and migrants. EU Guidelines must make an explicit call on Member States and shipmasters to comply with their internationally recognised duty to assist migrants in distress at sea and encourage Member States and EU institutions alike to remove disincentives for shipmasters to engage in search and rescue operations that still exist in national and EU law.

ECRE further urged that the transposition and implementation of the EU asylum acquis ensuring the highest protection standards should be a key priority. This process should be effectively guided through Commission interpretive guidelines and monitored through a permanent health and quality check to remedy any flaws and protection gaps. ECRE urged that the EU Strategic Guidelines acknowledge the importance of assuring quality free legal assistance at all stages of the procedure and that detention has to remain a measure of last resort and should never be used for asylum-seeking children. The need to revisit the principles underlying the Dublin Regulation was underlined and ECRE recommended a pilot study be initiated on a responsibility determination procedure, which focusses on existing connections between asylum seekers and Member States and asylum seekers’ own preferences and that is linked with a system of fair responsibility-sharing between Member States.

ECRE also stressed that the EU Strategic Guidelines should put forward a clear target for the EU to resettle 20,000 refugees annually by 2020 and that refugee protection in countries of origin and transit must be enhanced by means of regional protection programmes.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 24 January 2014
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