Academic journal article Refuge

Towards a Common European Asylum System: Asylum, Human Rights, and European Values

Academic journal article Refuge

Towards a Common European Asylum System: Asylum, Human Rights, and European Values

Article excerpt


The turn of the millennium has been met with a considerable amount of work in the area of refugee protection, culminating in the UNHCR's Agenda for Protection and Convention Plus initiatives. In addition, in 1999 the European Union embarked on a five-year program to develop a Common European Asylum System as mandated by the Treaty of Amsterdam. Work done by the European Commission sought to incorporate asylum into broader issues of immigration, border security, and foreign relations. As a result, entitlements were generally limited to those that have been mandated by applicable international, European, or domestic law. Some exceptions were further reduced at the political level. Functional values of bureaucratic efficiency and pragmatic political considerations converged to create the lowest common denominator. On the other hand, voices in civil society were raised to protest this approach, advocating that normative values that underpin international human rights law should serve as the interpretative context. In light of this debate, this may be an appropriate rime for the international community to revisit the question of status for those not described in the Geneva Convention.



Le tournant du millenaire a vu beaucoup de travail accompli dans le domaine de la protection des droits des refugies, debouchant sur les initiatives de l'UNHCR, Agenda pour la protection et Convention Plus. En plus, en 1999, l'Union Europeenne a lance un programme etale sur cinq ans et visant a developper un systeme europeen commun sur le droit d'asile comme mandate par le Traite d'Amsterdam. Le travail deja accompli par la Commission Europeenne visait a inscrire le droit d'asile dans les questions plus larges de l'immigration, de la securite aux frontieres et des relations exterieures. Par consequent, les criteres d'admissibilite furent generalement limites a ceux deja mandates par les lois internationales, europeennes ou domestiques applicables. Certaines exceptions subirent une reduction supplementaire quand ils arriverent au niveau politique. Les valeurs fonctionnelles de l'efficacite bureaucratique se sont donc alliees a des considerations politiques pragmatiques pour produire le plus petit denominateur commun. D'autre part, des voix se sont elevees dans la societe civile pour protester contre cette approche, arguant que les normes qui sous-tendent le droit international en matiere de droits de la personne devraient servir de cadre interpretatif. A la lumiere de ces debats, il se peut que ce soit le moment opportun pour la communaute internationale de revoir le statut de ceux qui ne sont pas decrits dans la Convention de Geneve.

Europe is now in the process of trying to reinvent itself in an era of globalization as an interdependent community of shared values, markets, labour, and capital. In order to achieve this goal, the European Union has set about the task of creating an area of freedom, security, and justice with open internal borders. The result of advances made in this area has led to the phenomenon of secondary migration within Europe. Pull factors relating to reception conditions, asylum determination procedures, and interpretation of refugee law, in addition to such other factors as language and colonial ties, led to a perceived disparity among States with respect to assuming responsibilities towards asylum seekers. Concern about "burden sharing" and "asylum shopping" led to discussions about how best to address what was perceived to be a problem. Rules governing State responsibility for deciding asylum claim and plans for a European Refugee Fund were developed. In order to decrease the incentive to make asylum claims in Europe elsewhere than the country of admission and in order to promote consistency, a comprehensive program for a Common European Asylum System has been proposed, with implementation of minimum standards by May of 2004. This project requires the balances of competing interests--those of the individual rights of asylum seekers with those of the community at large. …

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