Asylum : Commission Puts Refugees Back at Heart of System

Article excerpt

Believing that in Europe the "procedure is little concerned with asylum applicants," the European Commission proposed, on 3 December, improving the Dublin II(1) system, which is considered to be unfair to refugees. At the same time, the EU executive wants to reinforce the protection of the most vulnerable (unaccompanied children and single women, in particular) and calls for family reunification and free legal assistance.

"Our objective is to place asylum applicants at the heart of a more human and fair procedure," explained EU Justice, Liberty and Security Commissioner Jacques Barrot.

Created in 2003 to avoid multiple demands, the Dublin regulation determines the member state responsible for examining an application (in this case, the first host country'). But some countries, entranceways to the EU such as Cyprus and southern Malta (and therefore often the first host country'), are inundated by applications that they usually reject. "In some countries, like Italy, Sweden and Malta, 50% of applications have a positive response. But in others, like Slovenia, Slovakia and Greece, this percentage is 3%," stressed the commissioner.

For Barrot, "there is an injustice as all countries do not have the same burden, but it is also unfair to asylum applicants". Therefore, he explained, a Chechnyan has a 72% chance of being protected in Austria, but practically no chance in Slovakia. An Iraqi has more chance of being protected in Sweden than in Greece, he said.

As for injustice between countries: Cyprus (700,000 inhabitants) must face 8.69 asylum applications annually for 1,000 inhabitants and Malta 3.38 applications for 1,000 inhabitants (they are 400,000 in total) against 3.97 in Sweden (ten million inhabitants). The European average is 0.45 applications for 1,000 inhabitants.

POSSIBILITY OF SUSPENSION

Dublin would remain in force, but it would be relaxed. In concrete terms, in the future the Commission wants an asylum applicant to have the possibility of having his application examined in the country in which he finds himself (which is often different from his point of arrival) and of stressing the presence of close or distant family in other member states. …