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The emergence of the common EU asylum system

Lilian Tsourdi introduces the EU policy framework for international protection.
So in the European Union, there has been a gradual development of a common policy, termed as the Common European Asylum System, that has been agreed since 1999 through EU treaties and other policy documents developed in policy documents. And it has been agreed from the beginning that this development would be incremental. At the beginning, they envisaged that this would have happened in two stages. So the first stage of development revolves around efforts of harmonising legal standards on the basis of shared minimum standards at that point.
And the areas that were affected were asylum procedures, qualifying for international protection, which has in Europe two statuses– so refugee status, which is more closely linked with the 1951 Geneva Convention status, but also another additional EU status, which is subsidiary protection that largely codifies some of the human rights– actually, obligations of member states around the principle of non-refoulement, so prohibition to return persons where they would face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. Then there was agreement on minimum standards around reception conditions, which included also several civil and political, but also social rights– for example, access to the labour market or access to education. And finally, there was a system to allocate responsibility for the examination of claims.
This was the first stage of development. And from the beginning, there was a higher ambition to reach a common asylum procedure and a uniform status in the EU. And at the beginning, it was expected that further legal harmonisation– so moving from common to minimum standards– would do the trick. But very soon it became apparent that apart from enhancing legal harmonisation there were other elements that needed to be developed, mainly practical cooperation and enhanced solidarity.
So the responsibility for the examination of claims is regulated in law by the so-called Dublin Regulation, which was reformed in 2013, but which continues to rest on the following basic principles– so one member state should be responsible for each application. In order to avoid that asylum seekers either remain in orbit, meaning that no member states examine their application, but also to avoid that there will be multiple applications for asylum filed in different member states.
This is the responsibility allocation. There is also an EU agency, EASO, that is tasked with coordinating practical cooperation efforts. And by this, I mean undertaking actions, for example, around training, around harmonising country of origin information. And also it has the mandate to pool together experts from national member states and deploy them on the ground. But there, it must be clarified that they do not have the mandate to adopt decisions in individual cases, instead, for example, of that member state.

Interview with Liliana Tsourdi, University of Oxford, UK

We asked Liliana the following questions:

Question no.1: What is the framework of international protection in the EU?

Question no.2: How are practical cooperation and enhanced solidarity between member states organised in practice?

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