Asylum seekers waiting for a decision on their application must be provided with certain necessities that guarantee them an adequate standard of living.
The Reception Conditions Directive aims at ensuring better as well as more harmonized standards of reception conditions throughout the Union. It ensures that applicants have access to housing, food, clothing, health care, education for minors and access to employment under certain conditions.
The current Reception Conditions Directive was adopted in 2013. It replaced Council Directive 2003/9/CE on minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers. The deadline for Member States to transpose the Directive into national law was 20 July 2015.
In addition to the above mentioned provisions, the Directive also provides particular attention to vulnerable persons, especially unaccompanied minors and victims of torture. Member States must, inter alia, conduct an individual assessment in order to identify the special reception needs of vulnerable persons and to ensure that vulnerable asylum seekers can access medical and psychological support.
It also includes rules regarding detention of asylum seekers, ensuring that their fundamental rights are fully respected.
Finally, access to employment for an asylum seeker must now be granted within a maximum period of 9 months.
The current Reception Conditions Directive still leaves a considerable degree of discretion to define what constitutes an adequate standard of living and how it should be achieved. Thus, reception conditions continue to vary considerably between Member States both in terms of how the reception system is organized and in terms of the standard provided to asylum seekers.
More recently, the European Agenda on Migration has further underlined the importance of a clear system for the reception of asylum seekers as part of a strong common European asylum policy, while the migratory crisis has exposed the need to ensure greater consistency in reception conditions across the EU and the need to be better prepared to deal with large migration influxes.
In July 2016, the Commission presented a proposal to revise the Reception Conditions Directive in order to further harmonised reception conditions throughout the Union and to reduce the incentives for secondary movement. The proposal also aim at increasing applicants' self-reliance and possible integration prospects by reducing the time-limit for access to the labour market.
In September 2016, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) released the EASO guidance on reception conditions: operational standards and indicators. The guidance describes specific common standards which are applicable to national reception systems across all EU Member States and the indicators with which such standards should be measured against. The standards included in the document reflect already existing practice in EU Member States.
The guidance was drafted by EASO together with a working group composed of EU Member States’ experts, as well as representatives of other relevant stakeholders in the field of reception and fundamental rights, including the European Commission, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), while civil society's organizations were consulted prior to the adoption by the Management Board.
The overall objective of the guidance is to support Member States in the implementation of key provisions of the Reception Conditions Directive while ensuring an adequate standard of living for all applicants for international protection, including those with special reception needs.
The document has been designed to serve multiple purposes:
In addition, the guidance could serve as a basis for the development of monitoring frameworks to assess the quality of national reception systems.
Finally, it should be noted that the European Commission’s proposal for a recast of the Reception Conditions Directive of 13 July 2016 specifically refers to these operational standards and indicators.