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European Asylum Bill Might Breach Int. Law

European Asylum Bill Might Lead To Breach Of International Law, UN Agency Warns

Reiterating its “serious concerns” over new European Union (EU) legislation on asylum, the United Nations refugee agency today warned that without additional safeguards the measure might lead to breaches of international refugee law, and it urged Member States to adopt more favourable provisions.

In a detailed set of comments on the proposed Asylum Procedures Directive on which EU States reached political agreement last April but which still has to be formally adopted by the EU Council, the UN High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) made 96 observations.

“In view of the fact that the Directive defines common minimum standards for national asylum procedures, but permits Member States to retain or introduce higher standards in national law, UNHCR urges Member States to apply more favourable provisions where necessary to ensure compliance in practice with international refugee and human rights law,” the agency said.

UNHCR drew particular attention to the rules governing the designation of “safe” countries, and those which allow EU countries to deport certain categories of asylum seekers before their appeal has been heard, stressing that the Directive does not ensure that all applicants have an effective opportunity to rebut the presumption that a third country is safe in their particular cases.

“No applicant should be denied access to an asylum procedure altogether, including applicants arriving from countries designated as ‘safe third countries’ by national parliaments,” it said.

The agency regretted the extensive limits which Member States may place on personal interviews. “Personal testimony is often decisive for determinations, and can be vital to clarify errors or apparent inconsistencies. Limiting interview rights will significantly undermine the fairness of procedures and accuracy of decisions,” it said.

It also regretted that the Directive only guarantees the right to remain during the first instance procedure, allowing Member States the discretion to decide whether a remedy has suspensive effect and whether and which exceptions will apply.

“In view of the relatively high number of decisions overturned on appeal, and given the potentially serious consequences of wrong decisions at first instance, the suspensive effect of asylum appeals is a critical safeguard,” it said. “Applicants should be permitted to remain in the Member State until their appeals have been decided, if a legal remedy is to be effective.”

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