Select Committee on European Scrutiny Eighth Report


TOWARDS A COMMON ASYLUM PROCEDURE AND A UNIFORM STATUS FOR PERSONS GRANTED ASYLUM


(21947)
13119/00
COM(00) 755

Commission Communication : Towards a common asylum procedure and a uniform status, valid throughout the Union, for persons granted asylum.



Legal base:
Document originated: 22 November 2000
Forwarded to the Council: 24 November 2000
Deposited in Parliament: 12 January 2001
Department: Home Office
Basis of consideration: EM of 15 February 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: For debate in European Standing Committee B

Background

  3.1  The Special European Council at Tampere stated (in Conclusion 15) that "in the longer term, Community rules should lead to a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for those who are granted asylum valid throughout the Union". It asked the Commission to prepare a Communication on the matter within a year. The Communication was issued by the French Presidency in conjunction with another on a common EU immigration policy, which we have recommended for debate.[18]

The document

  3.2  This is a wide-ranging document, intended to launch a debate on longer-term possibilities rather than to focus on current proposals only. It is divided into five main sections.

    —  Part I — The context and objectives of a common procedure and a uniform status valid throughout the Union — outlines the present situation and the relevant international legal instruments. It then sets out a list of principles, objectives and challenges as a basis on which to develop guidelines. In a sub-section on Scope, the Communication emphasises that the common procedure and uniform status must be applied to all international protection needs, not only those covered by the Geneva Convention. It also emphasises that there is no intention to move to a position where decisions about the asylum status of individuals would be taken by a Community body.

    —  Part II of the document — From a limited common procedure to an integrated common procedure — begins by pointing out that the draft Directive on minimum standards on procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status, which we considered recently,[19] is a first-stage measure, which does not require Member States to apply uniform procedures. A move towards common procedural standards would require restricting the flexibility allowed to Member States and, eventually, defining such concepts as "safe countries". This section also discusses the "one-stop-shop" procedure, already adopted by some Member States (whereby an application rejected under the Geneva Convention is considered for international protection by the same body) and possible common approaches to visas and external border controls, requests made outside the EU and resettlement. Other significant issues addressed in this section include reception arrangements, the responsibility for examination of asylum requests, and returns.

    —  Part III — One or more uniform statuses valid throughout the Union — considers a number of options, including the possibility of a single status, conferring the same rights on those granted temporary protection as on refugees recognised under the Geneva Convention. It also addresses questions of rights, freedom of movement and right of residence, stating that "the basic reference set of rights conferred on persons enjoying protection must be the rights conferred on third country nationals residing lawfully in the European Union, which must in their turn be comparable to the rights of the citizens of the Union." The final sub-section of this chapter discusses integration and access to nationality, repeating the suggestion in the Communication on a common EU immigration policy of some form of civic citizenship.

    —  The fourth part of the Communication — Common Analyses — outlines the need for information, evaluation and statistics so that common analyses can underpin the common procedure and uniform status. It also highlights the contribution that some aspects of external policies can make in this area.

    —  The final part — A possible architecture and an examination method — considers how best the Union can move from the short-term to the longer-term stage envisaged by the Tampere Council. In the short term, a number of instruments have to be adopted before 1 May 2004. The Communication emphasises that they must be set in the context of the longer-term objectives. It suggests ways in which the content of the common procedure and the uniform status can gradually be developed and calls for a robust, full and transparent public debate on the issues.

The Government's view

  3.3  The Minister of State at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) tells us that the Government welcomes this Communication. She considers that there are significant potential benefits for the UK in the harmonisation of European asylum procedures, particularly since the process is likely to lead to a reduction of secondary migration. She agrees with the Commission, however, that it would be inappropriate for a single Community body to have responsibility for the determination of individual cases. The Minister also supports the proposition that a future common asylum procedure should not be concerned only with the operation of the 1951 Geneva Convention, but should include such subsidiary forms of protection as the status of individuals whose removal would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

  3.4  The Minister considers that a public debate on the next phase of the harmonisation process should help to ensure that the current negotiations on the establishment of minimum standards[20] are set in that context, and result in meaningful standards. She looks forward to a full discussion of possible measures on asylum.

  3.5  The Minister has some concerns about the different ways in which the concept of a "uniform status....valid throughout the Union" may be interpreted. She says:

    "Our view is that this concept need not necessarily imply freedom of movement for refugees. Because of the potential for differing interpretations, the Government welcomes the undertaking of the Commission to launch a study into issues relating to freedom of movement and rights of residence."

Conclusion

  3.6  Like the Communication on a common European Union immigration policy, this is a thoughtful document which addresses some significant issues, while taking a realistic view of the time involved in arriving at a common asylum procedure and a uniform status, however these terms are eventually defined. As the document is intended to launch a public debate, we think it is appropriate for consideration by Parliament. We therefore recommend it for debate in European Standing Committee B.

  3.7  The Standing Committee may wish to ask the Minister:

    —  whether she agrees with the Commission that the content of the common procedure and the uniform status needs to be built up gradually, and, if so, whether she supports the proposed ways of doing this;

    —  how far along the road towards a common procedure and a uniform status she considers the United Kingdom is likely to go, given its intention to maintain its existing frontier controls;

    —  how viable she considers a common procedure and a uniform status could be, if the United Kingdom were not to participate in the measures to establish them;

    —  whether she foresees any difficulties for the United Kingdom if it were not to participate in the measures to establish a common procedure and a uniform status;

    —  whether she supports the option of a single procedure for the examination of applications;

    —  whether she considers the option of abandoning the concepts of "safe countries of origin" and "safe third countries" to be worth exploration;

    —  whether she has any concerns about the proposals for reception arrangements, the responsibility for examination of asylum requests, and returns;

    —  whether she considers the option of a single status, conferring the same rights on those granted temporary protection as on refugees recognised under the Geneva Convention, to be worth exploration; and

    —  how she considers the phrase "uniform status....valid throughout the Union" should be interpreted in relation to freedom of movement and rights of residence.




18  (21845) 11529/00; HC 28-ii (2000-01), paragraph 3 (17 January 2001). Back

19  (21792) 11622/00; HC 28-v (2000-01), paragraph 8 (7 February 2001). Back

20  Ibid. Back


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 28 March 2001