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The EU Council quagmire of procedures is a dire threat to the right to asylum

Athens, 15 June 2023: The Council of the European Union mandate on the proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation (APR) and Asylum and Migration Management Regulation (AMMR) sets impermissible restrictions on refugees’ access to asylum procedures in Europe.

The agreement reached by EU Member States last Thursday 8 June paves the way for immediate negotiations (“trilogues”) with the European Parliament, whose positions on the proposals were adopted in March 2023. Their aim is to conclude the reform of the European legal framework on asylum, pending since 2016.

The Council mandate exacerbates inequalities between EU countries in refugee protection through mandatory border procedures, a stronger “first country of entry” responsibility criterion and extremely complex procedures to essentially codify the status quo as solidarity forms. It also poses undue restrictions on access to international protection procedures through a range of provisions which infringe the fundamental right to asylum.

The APR mandate restricts the possibility to “make” an asylum claim, since it requires refugees to express their intention to receive protection in person before designated national authorities. People who have booked a registration appointment will therefore not be considered as “asylum seekers” until the date of their appearance in person, as put forward by the Greek government in direct contradiction of case law of domestic courts and of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). Claims made more than seven working days after a previous return decision shall be dismissed as inadmissible if no new grounds have arisen in the meantime. This has particularly dire consequences for people seeking asylum in Greece, where new arrivals are systematically issued deportation or return orders by police authorities before their asylum applications are registered.

In addition, the Council has approved a broader definition of “safe third country” as a ground for dismissing asylum claims without an examination on substance, supported by Greece. The proposed concept creates direct risks of further expansion of the arbitrary practice followed by Greece over the past seven years following the “toxic” EU-Turkey deal. The Council allows for designation as “safe third countries” of states that persecute their own citizens and do not offer legal status and full rights to refugees. It repeals the obligation on states to lay down methodology rules for the use of the concept contrary to CJEU case law and presumes the safety of third countries to be met by their mere assurance that migrants will be treated “in accordance with relevant international standards” under agreements with the EU.

The start of “trilogues” between EU co-legislators marks a pressing need to resist the dismantling of the Common European Asylum System proposed by the Council and to safeguard fair and effective asylum procedures that guarantee real access to protection for those in need.

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