FROM ASYLUM AND APPEALS POLICY DIRECTORATE
The Country Information and Policy Unit (CIPU)
participates in two international fora for the exchange of information.
The Centre for Information, Discussion and Exchange
on Asylum, known by its French acronym CIREA, is a working party
established in 1992, which operates within the framework of the
General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. It is
a non-decision making body. Its purpose is to gather, exchange
and disseminate information and compile documentation on all matters
relating to asylum. These include Member States' legislation and
rules relating to asylum, important policy documents, case law
and legal principles, statistics, and the situation in countries
of origin of asylum applicants
During the Portuguese Presidency in the first
half of 2000, CIREA has studied background country information
on Nigeria, Angola, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and
will study Iraq in June. General topics discussed during the Portuguese
Presidency include the involvement of NGOs in asylum procedures;
asylum procedures at border posts; and unaccompanied minors. CIREA
also holds one meeting during each Presidency with the United
States and Canada, and also with the Central and Eastern European
Countries (CEECs) Cyprus, Malta and Turkey.
Ideas are also exchanged through the Inter-governmental
Consultations on Asylum, Refugee and Migration Policies in Europe,
North America and Australia (IGC). This is an informal, non-decision
making forum for exchanging information and discussing policy
in an effort to find innovative solutions and strategies to the
rapidly changing asylum, refugee and migration situation. The
participants include 16 States (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada,
Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway,
Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America)
and also UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration
The current primary focuses of the IGC are asylum,
return, trafficking, data and country of origin information. IND
officials attend the working groups which have been set up to
take forward work on these topics; ISED attend the working groups
on Return and Trafficking; CIPU attend the Country of Origin Information
Group. The Immigration Research and Statistics Service attend
the Data Group.
The participating states need to define key
concepts, to pool relevant data, and to develop a common understanding
of the topics under investigation. The States analyse the issues
in the light of the pooled information, and then discuss possible
policy options. A Full Round Meeting of senior officials is held
annually the most recent being held near Copenhagen in April 2000.
Six monthly Mini Full Round meetings are also held. These meetings
discuss recent trends, policy developments and co-ordinate the
future work of the IGC and its working groups. Workshops and
ad hoc meetings on specific topics are also held from time
to time, for example, the workshop on Kosovo in March 2000.
The Council of Europe Ad Hoc Committee of Experts
on the Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless
Persons, held its 49th meeting in March this year in Strasbourg.
At the meeting the Committee adopted a draft
Recommendation on temporary protection and its explanatory memorandum,
for the examination and adoption by the Committee of Ministers.
The Committee held an exchange of views on restrictions on asylum
in Member States of the Council of Europe and the European Union
on the basis of a Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation and the
relating decision of the Committee of Ministers, deciding that
discussion at another plenary session was needed to conclude an
opinion for the Committee of Ministers on the complex and sensitive
subject. The Committee held an exchange of views on the situation
of refugee women and decided to keep it on the agenda for the
next plenary session. A discussion on the detention of asylum
seekers was held and a Working Party established to report back
to the next plenary session. A preliminary exchange of views was
held on subsidiary protection and it was decided to establish
a Working Party to report back to the next plenary session in
The objective of Eurodac is to set up a mechanism
to make the application of the Dublin Convention more effective.
This will be achieved by means of a computerised central database
for comparing the fingerprints of asylum applicants and certain
other third country nationals. Agreement by Member States has
been reached on most of the draft Regulation.
Following the successful conclusion of discussions
with the Government of Gibraltar and the Spanish government it
should now be possible to resolve the outstanding issue of Eurodac's
territorial scope. The UK maintains a scrutiny reservation on
the article in question (Article 24 of the draft Regulation) for
the present, pending fuller consultation with the Government of
The Council has proposed to reserve the main
implementing powers to itself rather than delegate them to the
Commission. The European Parliament will need to be reconsulted
as this represents a substantial change to the Commission's original
The Commission has recently published a version
of the draft Regulation (COM(2000)100 final under cover of Council
paper 7079/00) accepting most of the Council's amendments and
incorporating these into the draft Regulation. It also responds
there to the European Parliament's opinion on the Commission proposal,
including its rejection of the Parliament's view that the minimum
age for taking fingerprints should be raised from 14 to 18 years.
The draft regulation has however been amended to make clear that
fingerprints shall be taken in accordance with the safeguards
in the ECHR and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The UK has no objection to the provisions in
the Eurodac text which would mean fingerprints for Eurodac purposes
being taken from those aged 14 years and above. The Immigration
and Appeals Act 1999 already provides a power to take fingerprints
from those aged 16 years and above. National legislation would
have to be amended, should the draft Eurodac proposals be adopted
as they stand, to bring it into line with the Community provisions.
The UK has yet to receive clearance on the draft
Regulation from its Parliamentary scrutiny committees. It cannot
therefore agree to the Eurodac proposals at this stage.
Member states are considering the proposed technical
specification for Eurodac. The Commission expect to have completed
the tender procedure by the end of 2000.