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Stronger protection of refugees

27 October 2011

In the European Parliament Thursday, a step was taken towards fairer treatment of refugees and others in need of protection in the EU. The Parliament voted in favour of a proposal from the European Commission on amending the so-called Qualification directive, which defines the grounds on which EU countries grant protection to those in need. The amendments voted through on Thursday include a common definition of groups considered especially vulnerable to state persecution in third countries. Also, the right to protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is clarified in the legislative text.

The original proposal for amendments to the directive was presented by the European Commission in 2008.

"This is an important milestone in the ambition to get all the asylum proposals of the Commission agreed by next year, as requested by the European Council in the Stockholm program. The agreement also sends a strong political signal on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the UN Refugee Convention. The current events in our neighbourhood shows that we must have safe, transparent and efficient procedures for those who turn to us and seek protection," said Commissioner Cecilia Malmström in a comment.

The new EU rules stipulate that those who are legally classified as "beneficiaries of subsidiary protection" – for example, people who have fled civil wars or certain disasters and therefore cannot claim formal U.N. refugee status – must be given the same rights as refugees. This includes the right to healthcare and the right of minors to attend school. Also, EU member states will be required by law to offer job training and employment counselling to refugees and others in need of protection, with the same conditions as citizens.

The Council now needs to formally adopt the modified Directive, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks.

Read the amendments to the directive here.