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Obstacle course in the EU for asylum seekers

Recent research has highlighted that 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 and the adoption of the ‘asylum package’ in June 2013.

The research, which was published by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) on asylum systems in 14 EU Member States, illustrates huge differences as regards the procedural rules and safeguards for asylum seekers, their access to accommodation and employment, and the use of detention.

Given the increasing legal complexity of Europe’s asylum procedures, it is essential that asylum seekers can effectively access free quality legal assistance throughout the asylum procedure in order to ensure that those who are in need of international protection are recognised as such. However, to a greater or lesser extent, access to free legal assistance and representation is increasingly compromised in the 14 EU Member States covered in the report.

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.

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.

The transposition into national law of the new recast asylum legislation adopted by the EU in June constitutes an opportunity for governments to address these deficiencies and introduce high standards of protection at the national level.

“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,” said Michael Diedring, ECRE Secretary General.

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