The European Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE) approved, on 17 March, a draft directive designed to simplify asylum procedures in the EU and to better protect those requesting asylum. The problem is that, faced with the reluctance of the EU's 27 member states vis a vis any new harmonisation of asylum procedures, which this draft directive is part of, the European Commission has to come up with a new proposal, due out in the coming months.
The LIBE committee hopes to influence the draft. The current 2005 directive(1) is often described as a "catalogue of the worst national practices," said the rapporteur, Sylvie Guillaume (S&D, France). In 2009, the Commission proposed recasting it as part of its asylum package' that went down badly in the Council. Its aim was to introduce a single European procedure for the granting and withdrawal of international protection, with common safeguards for asylum seekers, with the decision to grant asylum or intermediary protections being up to member states. For MEPs, the decision on whether or not to grant asylum in the first instance should not take more than six months. There is also a need to step up procedural safeguards for the most vulnerable migrants - victims of torture, rape or other serious forms of violence, unaccompanied minors, pregnant women - "a category of people on which the current directive is completely silent," says Guillaume.
Among the stumbling blocks, the right to free legal assistance in the first instance has finally been adopted by the LIBE committee, added the rapporteur. …