Solidarity has to be at the core of EU asylum policy and the European Commission is working in this direction. Even though common rules are, to a large extent, already in place, asylum solidarity between EU member states is still far too weak. Some countries' asylum systems do not function well enough. Other countries simply accept far too few asylum seekers, for example, in the first half of this year, over 75% of all asylum applications were made in only 6 Member States (France, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Sweden and Italy), meaning that many EU members could take a far greater share of the responsibility. In addition, unforeseen events can over-stretch the capacity of any Member State and the European Union has to be prepared to support these Member States, so that people who arrive are received in dignity.
"We have heard many a declaration about asylum solidarity, not least during the past year, but we have not seen as much action. The time for talk is over. The values of solidarity, tolerance and mutual respect now need to be turned into concrete results. That is why today we are proposing measures to help EU Member States live up to their responsibility of offering protection to people in need. To those Member States with ill-functioning asylum systems: It is time to get your house in order", said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs.
In a Communication adopted today on "Enhanced intra-EU solidarity in the field of asylum", the European Commission proposes to improve asylum systems through the interaction of EU legislation, an enhanced practical cooperation and a better use of EU funding mechanisms.
This will notably be achieved by:
- making the supporting role of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) more effective. Practical cooperation could, for example, be strengthened by making it easier to send officials to help Member States facing particular pressure
- increasing the amount of funds available to Member States and making these more flexible, taking into account significant fluctuations in the number of asylum seekers
- further developing and encouraging the relocation of beneficiaries of international protection amongst EU Member States, notably through financial assistance
- introducing an evaluation and early warning mechanism to detect and address emerging problems in Member States' asylum systems.
Drawing on lessons from the Union's reaction to the migratory consequences of the events in the Southern Mediterranean, the Communication emphasises in particular the need for better coordination between Union agencies such as, Frontex, Europol and the Fundamental Rights Agency. A reinforcement of cross-agency cooperation is important both when reacting to emergencies and in proactive work, such as risk analysis and early warning capacity.
Asylum flows are not constant, nor are they evenly distributed across the EU. They have, for example, varied from a peak of 425 000 applications for EU-27 States in 2001 down to under 200 000 in 2006, and up to 260 000 in 2010. An increase is expected this year, with the number of asylum applications up by 14% in the first half of 2011 compared to the first half of 2010.
Solidarity has been a central tenet in the field of EU migration for over a decade, since the very beginning of the Union's common asylum policy (CEAS), and is now enshrined in Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The need to translate solidarity into concrete measures flows from practical realities since Member States' asylum systems are also interdependent: an overburdened or malfunctioning system in one Member State has a clear impact on all the others.
It is thus the Union's responsibility to assist these Member States and to uphold the Union's common values and fundamental rights. Member States, in turn, must ensure that their asylum systems meet the standards set by international and European law, notably through the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.
The Stockholm Programme, the roadmap for EU action in the justice, freedom and security field, also calls for the Union to strengthen solidarity on asylum. In particular, it calls for solidarity between Member States as they collectively shoulder the responsibility of setting up a humane and efficient system to manage asylum flows. Today's Communication is a step closer in answering that call.
For more information
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs
Homepage DG Home Affairs