Mail from Brussels, In the maze of asylum legislation, 13.09.2015

In the maze of asylum legislation

There will be no immediate European solution concerning the refugee debate in Europe. Upon the request of France, the UK and Germany, the European Ministers of the Interior will meet on September 14th under the EU Council Presidency of Luxembourg. The issues of safe country of origin, the distribution of the refugees and their repatriation are likely to be at the heart of these talks.

For some people, migration policies are simply a matter of national security. However, in Brussels, all parties concerned are well aware that the admission of refugees will be an unprecedented social experiment. The majority of the refugees will most probably never return to their home countries, but stay in one of the EU Member States. This will drastically change the structure of society with significant consequences. The governments of all member states are well aware of this fact – also, but especially, those who are now debating national asylum and migration policies.

In Brussels, hardly anyone understands the 28 different national asylum procedures, which are each composed of national traditions and EU regulations, respectively. The EU legislation has only very recently been added as an additional level between the UN conventions and their application by the signatory states in order to harmonise the attempts of implementation of the international conventions made by the EU member states. Several European legal acts regulate the harmonisation of asylum procedures such as the "reception directive" 2013/33/EU of June 26th 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection, the "procedures directive" 2013/32/EU on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection of June 26th 2013, or the "qualification directive" 2011/95/EU of December 13th 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted.

Regulation (EU) No. 604/2013 by the European Parliament and the European Council of June 26th 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (Dublin-3-regulation) has been extended to all people "seeking international protection". The harmonisation of the right of asylum on a European basis has lead to the extension of legal rights of migrants. However, this does not meet the demands set by the Geneva Convention on Refugees, whose intention it is to protect refugees against refoulement to the country in which they fear persecution, but not the individual claim for granting asylum, entry or a right of abode. Those who are denied human rights in their countries of origin and who have to fear persecution according to the reasons mentioned in the Geneva Convention on Refugees have a right of asylum. Simply seeking a better life is expressly not included here.

According to the Dublin-3-regulation, the first country of entry in the EU is responsible for examining a refugee's application for asylum. This is why the Mediterranean states (Malta, Italy, Greece, Spain) are particularly concerned and overburdened. Due to its geographical proximity to the Western Balkan states also Hungary has paid a high price receiving 45,000 refugees in the past two months. It has become obvious that the procedures established by the EU do not seem to be functioning anymore. Although there are on-going accession negotiations with Montenegro and Serbia, they are both not considered a "safe third country"  - they need not receive refugees who will go to Hungary instead and from there travel on to other member states. Also Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as Kosovo are potential candidate countries, but are not considered "safe third countries". Nevertheless, the Western Balkan states receive massive financial support from the EU budget in the context of the accession negotiations. Hence, Brussels should decide to automatically designate each candidate state as a safe third country and enforce this resolution - if necessary by suspending the accession negotiations.

The financial funds thus released could be used for the establishment of the so-called "embassy asylum" based on the Swiss model. Embassy asylum means that applications for asylum can only be made at the embassy of the member states and assessed in the country of application. After all, it is the staff of the respective embassy that is better qualified to assess the particular situation than e.g. any social welfare office in a German town.

The call for embassy asylum has already been addressed during the hearing of the candidate for the office of EU Commissioner for Migration and also a German Member of European Parliament brings up the subject every now and then. Perhaps it will be possible for the Ministers of the Interior to also consider the concrete possibility of embassy asylum on September 14th. Much would be gained if one could at least agree on a standardised policy.