Brussels Seeks End To EU ‘Asylum Lottery’

Brussels seeks end to EU 'asylum lottery'

Posted : Wed, 21 Oct 2009 15:04:44 GMT
By : dpa
Category : Finance (General)

Brussels – Officials in Brussels on Wednesday called for common and fairer asylum rules within the European Union in order to offer refugees a higher level of protection. The proposals put forward by the bloc's top justice official, Jacques Barrot, aim to put an end to the so-called “asylum lottery”, whereby a person's chances of being granted international protection depend largely on where in Europe he or she has filed the request.

Greece, for instance, accepts very few refugees, while Sweden tends to be more generous.

Once they have been granted asylum status, refugees also tend to be treated differently in different member states, meaning some EU countries are perceived as far more attractive than others.

“By bringing down internal borders, the EU has created a common immigration zone. So it makes sense that it should also regulate asylum policies,” said Anneliese Baldaccini, an expert on EU asylum policies at Amnesty International.

Barrot said new rules are needed because of the “considerable disparities” that persist between member states.

Officials in Brussels have in the past spoken out against the treatment of Iraqi refugees by Denmark, or against Italy's latest practice of sending would-be immigrants intercepted in international waters back to Libya, without first checking whether any of them may qualify for asylum.

According to the European Commission's latest proposals, the EU should clarify the legal concepts that national governments use to define who should be protected. Some member states, for instance, are more sensitive than others towards the victims of female genital mutilation.

National governments should also treat accepted refugees in the same way, for instance by eliminating differences in the duration of residence permits, access to health care and so on.

The commission also wants to limit to six months the amount of time it should take for a request to be examined. National courts should immediately base their decisions on both facts and points of law so as to avoid legal quagmires.

Finally, border guards and the police should have a clearer view on how to deal with applicants, while more protection should be provided to unaccompanied children and victims of torture.

“The EU already has a set of common rules. But so far, these provisions have been interpreted in different ways by member states, meaning there is no level playing field,” Baldaccini told the German Press Agency dpa.

Barrot's proposals will now have to be approved by EU governments and the European Parliament. The commissioner hopes to see them in place by 2012.