3. PROCEDURES FOR GRANTING AND WITHDRAWING
Amended draft Directive on minimum standards for procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing refugee status.
|Legal base:||Article 63 EC; consultation; unanimity
|Basis of consideration:||Minister's letter of 10 December 2002
|Previous Committee Report:||HC 152-xli (2001-02), paragraph 8 (6 November 2002)
|To be discussed in Council:||No date set
|Committee's assessment:||Politically important
|Committee's decision:||Not cleared; further information requested
3.1 The draft Directive aims to set minimum standards
for fair and efficient asylum procedures in Member States. When
we first considered this amended version (in November), we kept
it under scrutiny. We asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary
of State for Race Equality, Community Policy and European and
International Policy (Lord Filkin) to let us know the results
of consultation with NGOs, and to keep us informed about the progress
of negotiations. We also asked him to clarify his comment about
the requirement to provide applicants with information on procedure
in a language that they understand.
The Minister's letter
3.2 The Minister has now written to us on the specific
point we raised. He reminds us that the original draft proposal
stipulated that initial information on procedure had to be given
in a language understood by the applicant. Several Member States
were unhappy about this absolute obligation, since they felt that,
despite their best intentions, they might be unable to fulfil
it because of a shortage of interpreters or other resources. The
revised proposal now stipulates that the information must be issued
in a language which applicants "may reasonably be supposed
to understand". The Minister supports the revision, saying
: "Swift agreement of this draft Directive remains a UK priority
and we would not support overly prescriptive requirements which
become an obstacle to agreement".
3.3 The Minister then outlines the current UK procedures.
He tells us:
"The UK provides initial information on our asylum procedures
in 32 languages by means of covering notes for the form used by
most applicants to provide the basis of their claim. The notes
explain who qualifies for asylum, how to fill the form in, the
application procedure, and how to access advice and translation
services. In addition, we are currently preparing a different
leaflet, again in the applicant's own language, for those subject
to the new non-suspensive appeals process.
"Asylum seekers entering Dover induction centre are briefed
about their rights and responsibilities and about what they can
expect in terms of the UK asylum system. Currently, this material
is presented to applicants in English, accompanied by oral translation
in a language they understand. We plan to make translated versions
of this information available in writing to applicants at Dover
induction centre by April 2003. The briefing service and materials
will be available at other induction centres as the network is
rolled-out across the country in the course of next year."
3.4 Finally, the Minister tells us clearly that the UK
supports the wording in Article 9 (1) as it currently appears
in the Commission's amended proposal.
3.5 We have some difficulty in understanding why the
requirement to inform applicants about procedures in a language
"which they may reasonably be supposed to understand"
is significantly less of an absolute obligation than the requirement
that the information must be given in a language "which they
[applicants] understand". The problems cited a shortage
of interpreters or other resources might still be expected
to apply in relation to the new requirement.
3.6 However, our chief concern was to discover whether
or not the Minister supported the revised wording. He has now
told us that he does, and we thank him for the clarification.
3.7 We shall continue to keep the document under scrutiny
until we know more about the progress of negotiations, and the
views of NGOs.
11622/00; see HC 28-v (2000-01), paragraph 8 (7 February 2001). Back