‘Obstacle course’ in the EU leads to unfair treatment of asylum seekers

NGOs say there is still a long way to go in the establishment of a fair and efficient Common European Asylum System despite more than 12 years of harmonising national asylum policies.

Research published today by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) on asylum systems in 14 EU member states has illustrated huge differences in the procedural rules and safeguards for asylum seekers, their access to accommodation and employment, and the use of detention.

Asylum seekers' right to lodge an appeal against a rejection of asylum claims in the first instance in some member states is being undermined, the report states, because lawyers are not allowed reasonable time to properly prepare an appeal.

Examples include that of the UK for asylum seekers under the 'detained fast-track procedure' whose lawyers only have two working days to challenge a negative asylum decision. In Hungary, a request for judicial review must be lodged within three calendar days if the asylum application is rejected as inadmissible, as is the case when it is considered that the person has transited a safe third country.

"Such systems not only add to the workload of already overburdened courts, it also increases the risk that asylum seekers are sent back to their country of origin and subjected to serious human rights violations, in particular when there are obstacles to access free legal assistance," ECRE said.

Amongst others, the report also highlights the varying state practice with regard to detention. While some EU member states such as Germany and Italy rarely detain asylum seekers, more than 13,000 asylum seekers entered detention in the UK in 2012 and Malta continues to detain for months the vast majority of asylum seekers arriving in the island, in overcrowded military barracks. In Greece, unaccompanied children apprehended crossing the border irregularly are systematically detained under the same conditions as adults until shelter has been ensured.

"How can we expect refugees to be able to explain the reasons which forced them to flee their country and navigate through a complex legal procedure when in some cases they are not assisted by a lawyer and a qualified interpreter, when sometimes they have to sleep rough or in makeshift settlements or when months in overcrowded detention centres have left them psychologically broken?" Michael Diedring, ECRE Secretary General, said at the launch of the report 'Not There Yet: An NGO Perspective on Challenges to a Fair and Effective Common European Asylum System'.

The research shows that cuts to legal aid are reducing the number of legal representatives available to provide assistance to asylum seekers and refugees, and also that, paradoxically, effective access to quality legal assistance is least available where it is most needed, such as in accelerated procedures, at the border or in detention.

"States now have to do the right thing and give asylum seekers a fair chance to have their claim properly examined, put an end to the detention of those fleeing persecution, and allow refugees to rebuild their lives and contribute to society," Diedring said.

Alla jbierek hadd ma jsemmi id-drittijiet tal-popli li qed jilqghu lil dawn l-emigranti.
Political refugees should be given all help and asylum, but economic migrants ( these are not political refugees)who come here illegally are not the same! Malta is a small barren island who became independent only 50 years ago; we have a lot of economic problems: debt, deficits, 17% of our poor are still in dire straits! We should help our own first and foremost and we are already doing more than foreign 'preachers' in this field. Africa is a resource rich continent; Africans should do their own thing like we did: kick off the foreigner exploiters (read EU,USA, China) get rid of corrupt African dictators educated in Europe, and use education to change the country !