The EU needs to put its act together and address the issue of asylum management
by Anna Triandafyllidou
Director Research Area Cultural Pluralism
19 June 2014
Asylum is a pressing issue of common concern for both Northern and Southern European countries. Southern countries (Italy and Greece particularly but also Malta, Cyprus and Spain) are exposed to pressures at their borders because of their geographical proximity to zones of instability and conflict and are mostly affected by filtering mixed flows of irregular migrants and asylum seekers. Northern European countries (Germany, Sweden, France, UK), on the other hand, are not geographically exposed but still receive the largest number of asylum applications within the EU and are mostly concerned with proper processing. Thus both groups of countries need to deal with the phenomenon but have different priorities.
There is an urgent need for concerted efforts at the European level to ensure that people who are fleeing war and persecution can reach safe (EU) territory and seek protection. At the same time, we need to ensure that managing mixed flows does not mean completely opening-up the EU borders.
At the forthcoming EU summit of 26-27 June 2014, two proposals should be on their agendato achieve these two objectives.
The role of the European Asylum Support Office should be upgraded to increase joint operations on the ground at the external EU borders, involving experts from member states with a long experience in asylum processing. This would help building capacity in southern member states to ensure better and faster processing of asylum applications.
A common EU status of refugee or person benefiting of international protection should be introduced so that asylum seekers processed and recognised in one member state may move freely within the EU and, if they wish so, relocate in a different member state from the one of entry. The imbalance between the management of rejections - valid throughout the EU - and positive decisions – which do not provide for an EU status, nor have to be recognized by a member state that has not taken the decision – should be addressed. Mutual recognition of asylum positive decisions should be established to build trust among member states and to create an incentive and ‘reward’ for Southern European countries to put more effort and resources in improving their asylum management systems.