UNHCR welcome EU moves towards a common asylum system

Briefing Notes, 14 June 2013

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 14 June 2013, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

On Wednesday 12 June the European Parliament amended EU legislation on asylum after long and complex negotiations. The changes that have been brought are in UNHCR's view a welcome step towards the establishment of a Common European Asylum System.

The ultimate objective of these changes is a uniform asylum system which is valid across the European Union. This would ensure that, regardless of the Member State in which an application for international protection is lodged, the application should receive the same treatment.

Among several new provisions which improve existing frameworks and practice are four elements that we believe are of particular note. The first is strengthened safeguards in asylum decision-making. This includes mandatory training requirements for authorities; a compulsory personal interview in all cases; requirements for a detailed report of the personal interview; and gender-sensitive procedures.

The second is further regulation of the use of detention. Systematic detention of asylum-seekers will no longer be possible. Important new guarantees include the requirement that any detention be necessary and proportionate; that detention is an exceptional measure and can only be justified for a legitimate purpose on defined grounds.

The third is more extensive guarantees for vulnerable people. These include the establishment of identification mechanisms, better representation for unaccompanied children, as well as specific procedural and reception guarantees.

Last, is earlier access to the labour market. In cases where claims for international protection are not decided within six months, asylum-seekers will have access to the labour market not later than nine months following the date when their applications were lodged.

UNHCR believes that the legislation agreed has potential to contribute to more harmonized asylum systems in the European Union. The agreed legislative package should further improve protection standards and practices across the 27 Member States soon to be 28 with Croatia's imminent accession.

European Union Member States are now obliged to amend their national laws to reflect these changes. If correctly enacted in national laws and implemented in accordance with international protection principles, these new provisions could help ensure a more timely and accurate recognition of persons in need of international protection. This could also lead to resource savings a key concern of all States through more efficient asylum systems operating at a high standard of quality.

During the negotiation process, some compromises were made and some opportunities were missed to fill gaps and to clarify overly broad, complex and problematic provisions. Some new articles that have been introduced do raise difficult questions of interpretation and of principle, for example, border entry procedures as they relate to unaccompanied children.

Such provisions are likely to require further guidance from the European Court of Justice to define their implications and UNHCR is committed to supporting this process. As part of our collaboration with governments and in the exercise of our supervisory function for the 1951 Refugee Convention, we are ready to work with Member States and other stakeholders to assist the legislative and implementation process at national level.

UNHCR Credibility Assessment Report

Separately, a UNHCR report published today and also relating to Europe and asylum focuses on a central part of the examination of an asylum claim: determining whether statements and other evidence provided by an applicant are credible.

UNHCR notes in this report that applications for asylum are often turned down in the European Union due to questioning of the credibility of the evidence presented. With this report, and in light of the steps taken by the European Parliament, UNHCR hopes to contribute to the further harmonization of Member State practices as they relate to the assessment of credibility.

At a time when a common understanding of and approach to the credibility assessment process among EU Member States is still lacking, the report "Beyond Proof Improving Credibility Assessment in EU Asylum Systems" provides unique insights into state practices based on research in EU Member States, guidance from other states and court rulings.

UNHCR calls for a fair EU asylum system with objective and impartial asylum decisions that take into account the applicant's individual background and circumstances.

The report includes checklists and flowcharts that translate the legal and theoretical concepts into practical tools to assist decision-makers and support a fair assessment of credibility.

For information on this topic, please contact:

  • In Tissi: Ruth Schöffl, on mobile +235 68 000 537
  • In Geneva: Fatoumata Lejeune-Kaba, on mobile +41 79 249 34 83



EU Asylum Law and Policy

EU law and practice affects creation of refugee protection mechanisms in other countries.


Trends on asylum and protection in EU Member States.

EU Instruments

UNHCR's regularly comments on key EU Regulations and Directives relating to asylum.

UNHCR Projects

UNHCR has numerous projects with EU Member States to improve the quality of asylum.

Judicial Engagement

UNHCR expertise helps courts interpret legislation in accordance with international asylum law.


The significance of resettlement as a durable solution is increasing in the EU.

Integration (refugee rights) and Family Reunification

Integration is a two-way process requiring efforts by the host societies as well as the refugees.

Border Cooperation

UNHCR is lobbying for protection-sensitive border management.

Asylum Practice

UNHCR is monitoring asylum practice and whether it is consistent with the 1951 Convention.

Practical cooperation

UNHCR is promoting and supporting cooperation with EU Member States and EASO.

Working with the European Union

EU law and practice affects creation of refugee protection mechanisms in other countries.

Groups of Concern

UNHCR expects Member States to pay particular attention to asylum seekers and refugees with specific needs.

Statelessness in Europe

UNHCR engages with EU Member States to identify and resolve the problems of stateless persons.

UNHCR Central Mediterranean Sea Initiative (CMSI)

EU solidarity for rescue-at-sea and protection of Asylum Seekers and Migrants.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Life in the Shadows: People Smuggling at the European Union's Edge

So far this year, nearly 200,000 people have entered the European Union (EU) through irregular routes - many undertaking life-threatening journeys across the Mediterranean. At the fringes of the EU recently, on either side of the border between Hungary and Serbia, several Afghans and Syrians explained to UNHCR why they turned to smugglers to flee war and persecution to try to find safety in Europe. Some were staying in an abandoned brick factory in Serbia, waiting for smugglers to get them into Hungary and on to other points inside the EU. Others had been caught making just such a journey and were temporarily being held in police cells in south-eastern Hungary. The following images were taken by UNHCR's Kitty McKinsey.

Life in the Shadows: People Smuggling at the European Union's Edge

Drifting Towards Italy

Every year, Europe's favourite summer playground - the Mediterranean Sea - turns into a graveyard as hundreds of men, women and children drown in a desperate bid to reach European Union (EU) countries.

The Italian island of Lampedusa is just 290 kilometres off the coast of Libya. In 2006, some 18,000 people crossed this perilous stretch of sea - mostly on inflatable dinghies fitted with an outboard engine. Some were seeking employment, others wanted to reunite with family members and still others were fleeing persecution, conflict or indiscriminate violence and had no choice but to leave through irregular routes in their search for safety.

Of those who made it to Lampedusa, some 6,000 claimed asylum. And nearly half of these were recognized as refugees or granted some form of protection by the Italian authorities.

In August 2007, the authorities in Lampedusa opened a new reception centre to ensure that people arriving by boat or rescued at sea are received in a dignified way and are provided with adequate accommodation and medical facilities.

Drifting Towards Italy

Life in Calais' Jungle

An estimated 3,000 refugees and migrants live in Calais on the northern coast of France. Most fled conflict, violence or persecution in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Syria and need international protection.

The situation in Calais has highlighted the need for greater responsibility and coordination between European countries and a robust implementation of the Common European Asylum System.

UNHCR has called upon EU member states to address the current gaps in asylum and reception. A collective and far-reaching European response is required, based on the principles of humanity, access to protection, solidarity and responsibility-sharing, both within the EU but also with countries outside the EU.

*Names changed for protection reasons.

Life in Calais' Jungle

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FYR Macedonia: Volunteers At Hand

Almost 300,000 refugees and migrants have passed through the Gevgelija transit center in the former Yusgoslav Republic of Macedonia, on their way to the EU since it was setup less than two months ago.
Too Much Pain: The Voices of Refugee Women, part 1/6Play video

Too Much Pain: The Voices of Refugee Women, part 1/6

Stories of refugee women who have undergone Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and are engaged to end this practice. These women explain their experiences of flight, asylum and integration in the EU.