RECEPTION OF ASYLUM APPLICANTS
Draft Directive laying down minimum standards on the reception of applicants
for asylum in Member States.
Draft Directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of
applicants for asylum in Member States.
Draft Directive laying down minimum standards for the reception of
applicants for asylum in Member States.
|Legal base:||Article 63 EC; consultation; unanimity
|Basis of consideration:
||EM of 8 April 2002|
|Previous Committee Report:
||(a)HC 152-xxii (2001-02), paragraph 12 (20 March 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:
||25/26 April 2002|
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
|Committee's decision:||(a) and (b) Cleared
(c) Not cleared; further information requested
3.1 The aim of the proposal is to harmonise the assistance
granted to asylum seekers while their applications are being considered,
and to ensure that applicants have "a dignified standard
of living" (paragraph 6 of the preamble). It is one of a
number of measures intended to set minimum standards in relation
to asylum seekers as a first step towards establishing a common
procedure and a uniform status for those granted asylum in any
3.2 We have already considered document (a) three times.
On the last occasion, in March, we decided to keep it under scrutiny
until we received the amended text which the Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State at the Home Office (Angela Eagle) had told us to expect
in the near future. The Minister has now sent us two unnumbered
unofficial documents, with an Explanatory Memorandum which covers
both. We concentrate below on document (c) which supersedes documents
(a) and (b).
Document (c) and the Government's view
3.3 In a full and detailed Explanatory Memorandum, the
Minister outlines the most significant amendments to the text
of the draft Directive, and gives the Government's view of them.
3.4 Changes made to Article 7: Freedom of Movement
include two additions to the grounds on which freedom of movement
within the host Member State may be restricted "the
public interest" and "the attribution of administrative
competences ..." (The latter recognises that some Member
States, such as Germany, restrict freedom of movement to a particular
3.5 In the same Article, the cross-reference to the draft
dealing with detention has been omitted. The Minister tells us
that the general view was that it was not possible to agree cross-references
to a draft Directive still under negotiation. As a result, there
is now no reference to detention: instead, Article 7.2 allows
Member States to "decide on the residence of the applicant
for reasons of public interest, public order or when necessary
for the swift processing and effective monitoring of their application."
3.6 The latest text obliges asylum applicants to notify
authorities of any change of address. The Minister tells us that
the Government welcomes this amendment which is line with UK policy.
3.7 With regard to Schooling and Education of Minors,
the Minister tells us that the relevant Article (now Article 10)
has become more flexible. Member States are now allowed to grant
access to the education system under similar conditions
to those of nationals, rather than the same conditions.
In addition, education may be delivered in accommodation centres.
The Minister comments:
"This is not intended to deny or restrict minors from
access to education, however, for practical reasons it may be
necessary to educate asylum-seekers' children or minor asylum-seekers
separate from nationals in certain circumstances. The Government
would welcome this added flexibility as it allows for educating
minors in mainstream state schools as well as for future proposals
whereby minors residing in accommodation centres will be offered
educational instruction on-site, tailored to their needs."
3.8 The Minister informs us about changes to the Employment
Article (now Article 11) as follows:
"The Government has previously expressed its concern
regarding the original wording of this article, as it was not
consistent with current UK policy on access to employment for
asylum applicants. The original text obliged Member States to
allow access to the labour market after 6 months even if a negative
decision had been made before this time-period had elapsed. The
amended article now requires host countries to grant access to
the labour market if there has been no first decision on an asylum
application within 12 months of the date on which the claim was
made. Negotiations on the time-period in which employment is denied
proved very difficult and a compromise of 12 months has been made.
Although the Government would have preferred the original six
month period, it is better to compromise for a maximum of twelve
months in which access to the labour market may be denied rather
than having no time-limit at all. Access to the labour market
is now restricted to the principal asylum applicant and no longer
includes accompanying family members."
3.9 With regard to Vocational Training, the Minister
"During the course of the negotiations this article proved
contentious to a number of Member States with divergent views.
There was no dispute as to whether asylum applicants should be
allowed access to vocational training at some point, however,
Delegations were eager for the host country to have greater flexibility
on the form that the training would take. Although the amended
Article ... is no longer obligatory the Government feels that
it is better to reach a compromise on the provision of vocational
training rather than deleting the article altogether. The former
Article ... that allowed Member States to deny access to vocational
training as a punishment for negative behaviour has now been deleted."
3.10 The Minister discusses a number of amendments to
the General Rules and the Modalities of material reception
conditions. She welcomes the amendment whereby the standard
of reception conditions available no longer depends upon the length
of the asylum procedure, since it seeks to address the issue of
a two-tier system. (To the same end, the distinction between the
availability of different levels of healthcare in relation to
the length of the asylum procedure has been removed.) The Minister
also supports the deletion of the Article which allowed Member
States to reduce or withdraw reception conditions once applicants
were granted access to the labour market, considering it more
appropriate to wait until a person is employed and receiving an
income before considering taking such measures.
3.11 The Minister tells us that the new provision which
allows for different reception conditions for a short period under
exceptional circumstances is not intended as a mechanism for delay.
"It was inserted at the request of Delegations that felt
it was important to retain an element of flexibility so that host
countries could deal with a large influx of persons into one geographical
area should this occur. It was pointed out that in these exceptional
circumstances it was not always possible to provide reception
conditions at the levels prescribed by the draft Directive due
to a lack of resources. Frequently, host countries would be forced
to temporarily accommodate persons in emergency housing for a
short period of time before they could be moved on to somewhere
more suitable to their needs."
3.12 The Minister then turns to Reduction or withdrawal
of reception conditions (now Article 16). She says:
"In the most recent text in Asile 17, Member States may
no longer reduce or withdraw reception conditions if there are
serious grounds that Article 1(F) of the Geneva Convention may
apply with respect to an application. Delegations agreed that
it did not seem fair to refuse reception conditions on a mere
suspicion of there being serious grounds for 1(F) being applicable,
and, once an applicant was excluded under Article 1(F) they would
no longer fall within the scope of the draft Directive. The Government
is also pleased to see that Member States may no longer reduce
material reception conditions if parents refuse to send their
children to school.
"Article 16.5 ... now forbids food and housing to be reduced
in addition to healthcare. The article conflicts with our domestic
policy which allows for withdrawal of support in certain circumstances
if asylum seekers have failed to abide by conditions of support
(in exercising this policy, we are bound by the principles of
reasonableness and proportionality and by our international obligations).
The Government considers Article 16.5 to be superfluous because
all Member States are signatory to the European Convention on
Human Rights and must therefore honour their international obligations
in these areas."
3.13 All the different references to appeals in the original
text have now been placed in a separate Article. There is now
a right to appeal against any negative decisions taken under Article
7 (Residence and freedom of movement). The Minister comments:
"The Government is satisfied that the wording of the
current text remains compatible with UK policy; however, we must
ensure that any future changes in this Article are acceptable
to the UK. Any proposed changes to the appeals system could have
an impact not only on UK policy but also on the rights of the
3.14 With regard to the scope of the measure,
the Minister tells us:
"The new version of the draft Directive excludes those
in receipt of temporary protection from its scope. This does not
mean, however, that persons granted temporary protection will
be denied access to reception conditions because the Council Directive
on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event
of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting
a balance of efforts between Member States and in receiving such
persons and bearing the consequences thereof already requires
host countries to allow access to the labour market, vocational
training, healthcare, material reception conditions and the education
The latest version of the proposal also narrows the definition
of "family members".
3.15 The Minister then comments on the issue of consistent
"During the course of the negotiations, Member States
were concerned about the definitions in Article 2 of the draft
Directive because they felt it was difficult to agree to definitions
that would also be contained in the forthcoming Procedures and
However, a compromise had to be found in order to allow progress
and agreement on Reception. Following Council Legal Service advice,
an Annex has been added to the draft Reception Directive which
allows for the definitions in Article 2 to be adapted once a final
text has been agreed on both the proposed Procedures and Qualification
Directive should this prove necessary."
3.16 The draft Directive is on the agenda for the April
meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council, although it is
not certain that the European Parliament's opinion will have been
received by that time. The Minister comments:
" The Government welcomes the amended text of the draft
Reception Directive which has sought to address many of contentious
issues of contained in the original draft. On the whole, Delegations
have reached agreement on most of the wording; however there remains
a need for minor changes to the wording of the draft Directive
before final agreement can be reached. Subject to our concerns
about Article 16.5 ..., plans to reach political agreement before
the end of the Spanish Presidency do not appear unrealistic."
3.17 We thank the Minister for her detailed Explanatory
Memorandum. There are several aspects of the amended text which
we welcome and, in general, we consider it an improvement.
3.18 We still have some concerns about the current
state of the proposal, however. Clearly, the negotiation of a
set of minimum standards is a complex matter and some degree of
compromise will probably always be necessary. For that reason,
we can accept the twelve-month deadline for access to the labour
market, although, like the Government, we would have preferred
the six-month period. We find it difficult, however, to understand
the reasoning behind the decision to make the provision of vocational
training optional, especially if, as the Minister tells us, the
principle of access to such training was not disputed. As it stands,
it is hard to see how the Article can constitute a "minimum
standard". We ask the Minister to explain why the watering
down of this Article was considered preferable to its deletion,
and to tell us whether there is any scope for its renegotiation.
3.19 We are also concerned that the very general nature
of some of the new wording could allow Member States to impose
unduly restrictive conditions. One example is the addition of
"public interest" to the grounds on which freedom of
movement within the host Member State may be restricted. Another
is the new wording of Article 7.2, quoted in paragraph 3.5 above.
We ask the Minister whether detention for the purpose of examining
asylum applications (expressly prohibited under the old 7.2) would
be permissible under the new wording.
3.20 With regard to detention, we note that the only
specific references to it left in the current text occur in Article
2 (where the term is defined) and Article 13, in relation to standard
of living. We ask the Minister if she is content that the draft
Directive sets no minimum standard concerning the grounds for
detaining asylum seekers.
3.21 Finally, we do not share the Minister's reservations
about Article 16.5. Nor do we understand her argument. If the
Article is superfluous "because all Member States are signatory
to the European Convention of Human Rights and must therefore
honour their international obligations in these areas", how
is the UK able to honour its international obligations if it allows
for food and housing support to be withdrawn, even if only in
certain circumstances? We ask the Minister for an explanation.
3.22 We do not wish to delay the agreement of this
proposal unduly. However, we are not prepared to clear document
(c) until we have the Minister's response to the points which
we have raised. We clear documents (a) and (b) as superseded texts.
11622/00; see HC 28-v (2000-01), paragraph 8 ( 7 February 2001). Back
13620/01; see HC 152-xxii (2001-02), paragraph 7 ( 20 March 2002). Back