In the implementation of their international obligations, European and EU states have devised sophisticated asylum systems based on complex procedural tools. In some cases, tools are designed and used for the purpose of avoiding responsibility for refugees, because they allow claims to be dismissed as inadmissible before looking at the substance of the claim. The recent EU-Turkey deal and the European Commission’s proposal for harmonised asylum procedures under an Asylum Procedures Regulation, for instance, revolve around concepts such as “safe third country” and “first country of asylum”. A report launched today documents the limited and fragmented application of admissibility and safe country concepts in 20 European countries.
“The latest reform of the Common European Asylum System brings the concepts of admissibility, responsibility and safety to the forefront of European asylum procedures, by introducing an obligation on Member States to deem applications inadmissible on the basis of ‘first country of asylum’ and ‘safe third country’ grounds”, says Minos Mouzourakis, AIDA Coordinator. “Yet such a move seems ill-fitted in the absence of evidence-based knowledge on the use and interpretation of these concepts throughout the continent.”
The recent introduction of broad lists of “safe third countries” in countries such as Hungary, as well as the pressure placed on Greece to apply the concept following the EU-Turkey deal, run counter to practice in countries with longer-entrenched safe country concepts in asylum procedures. Countries with longer experience, and often judicial guidance, in the application of the “safe third country” concept have clarified that an asylum seeker cannot be considered to have a “sufficient connection” with a third country merely on the basis of transit or short stay.
The report also discusses the implementation of the Dublin Regulation and the emergency relocation scheme, two instruments regulating the allocation of asylum responsibility within the EU. As far as relocation is concerned, despite extremely slow rates of implementation in Europe, countries such as France and Portugal have designed processes for the swift processing of claims by persons relocated to their territory and their allocation to the different regions where applicants will be accommodated.