9 Implementation of the Directive on
reception standards for asylum seekers |
|Commission report on the application of Directive 2003/9/EC laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers
|Document originated||26 November 2007
|Deposited in Parliament||30 November 2007
|Basis of consideration||EM of 14 December 2007
|Previous Committee Report||None
|To be discussed in Council||No date fixed
|Committee's assessment||Politically important
|Committee's decision||Not cleared; further information requested
9.1 The Council has adopted four Directives which set minimum
standards, applicable equally in all Member States, as a first
step towards establishing a common procedure and uniform status
for everyone granted asylum. The purpose of the Reception Standards
Directive is to set
minimum standards for the assistance asylum seekers are given
while their applications are being considered. Member States may
introduce or retain higher standards if they wish.
9.2 The following are example of the minimum standards
set by the Directive:
Article 8 requires the Member State to take appropriate action
to maintain, as far as possible, family unity if the applicant
is provided with housing by the Member State;
10 requires Member States to grant the children of asylum seekers
access to the education system; and
15 requires Member States both to ensure that asylum seekers receive
at least emergency health care and essential treatment for illness
and to provide necessary medical or other assistance to applicants
who have special needs.
9.3 Article 25 requires the Commission to report
to the European Parliament and the Council by 6 August 2006 on
the application of the Directive; and Article 26 requires Member
States to transpose the Directive into their domestic law by 6
The Commission's report
9.4 The Commission made the report on 26 November
2007, over a year later than required by the Directive. The report
contains no explanation of the delay.
9.5 The Commission concludes that the Directive has
been transposed satisfactorily in the majority of Member States.
It says that:
"Contrary to what was predicted following the
adoption of the Directive, it appears that Member States have
not lowered their previous standards of assistance to asylum seekers.
However, the present report has clearly shown that the wide discretion
allowed by the Directive in a number of areas, notably in regard
to access to employment, health care, level and form of material
reception conditions, free movement rights and needs of vulnerable
persons, undermines the objective of creating a level playing
field in the area of reception conditions."
The Commission's criticisms of the UK and the
Government's views on them
9.6 Commenting on the implementation of the Directive,
the Commission says that:
"Minor difficulties were detected with regard
to the application of the Directive in time. Some Member States
whose procedures are divided into numerous stages do not apply
the Directive, for example, to persons at the admissibility stage
Others [including the UK] only apply the Directive to applicants
who have already registered or hold a particular ID card."
9.7 The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at
the Home Office (Meg Hillier) tells us that the UK applies the
Directive to everyone who has made an application for asylum on
or after 5 February 2005. Because of "the unclear wording"
of the report, the Government is unsure what the Commission thinks
the UK has done improperly.
9.8 The Commission's report notes that the provisions
of the Directive apply to all types of premises for asylum seekers,
including detention centres. It says, however, that:
"As many as seven Member States [including
the UK] do not apply the Directive in detention centres."
9.9 The Minister tells us that the Government is
confident that the UK complies fully with the Directive's requirements
in detention centres. It does not accept the Commission's assertion.
9.10 The Commission's report notes that Article 6
of the Directive requires Member States to give asylum seekers
a document stating their name and status within three days of
the day on which they make their application. The Commission says
that many Member States do not comply with that deadline and that:
"Others [including the UK] have introduced
a clear deadline in the legislation but do not comply with it
9.11 The Minister tells us that the Government does
not accept this claim and that the report offers no substantiation
of it. If applicants seek asylum at an Asylum Clearing Unit or
one of the major ports, they are issued with an Application Registration
Card (ARC) on the day they claim asylum; and if the place where
the claim is made is not able to issue an ARC, a Standard Acknowledgement
Letter is issued.
9.12 The Commission says that :
"Certain deficiencies are noted regarding
the possibility of appeals against certain negative decisions.
While all Member States grant this possibility for detention decisions,
some [including the UK] make no provision for appeals against
decisions affecting individual freedom of movement
9.13 The Minister draws our attention, however, to
section 3.4.1 of the report, which does not list the UK as one
of the Member States which restrict the freedom of movement of
9.14 The Commission says that the UK has an undefined
period for the detention of asylum seekers and suggests that this
might not be consistent with Article 11 of the Directive, which
sets rules about access to the labour market by asylum seekers.
9.15 The Minister tells us that Article 11 permits
access to the labour market if a decision at first instance has
not been taken on an asylum application within 12 months. The
Government is confident that there have been no cases where an
asylum seeker has been detained for 12 months without a first
instance decision on the application.
9.16 The Commission also includes the UK among the
Member States which "deny detained minors access to education
or make it impossible or very limited in practice".
9.17 The Minister refutes this. She says:
"Detention is obviously a situation that precludes
access to community-based education. Families with children may
be detained at three removal (detention) centres. Yarl's Wood
is the main centre. It provides formal, on-site education for
all school-age children based on the national curriculum and delivered
by qualified teachers. The remaining two centres (Dungavel and
Tinsley House) do not normally hold families for more than 72
9.18 The Commission notes that Article 17 of the
Directive requires Member States to identify the special needs
of vulnerable asylum seekers. It says, however, that in some Member
States (including the UK) there is no identification procedure.
9.19 The Minister tells us that this is incorrect.
Individuals are asked, as part of the UK's asylum screening process,
whether they have any special needs. Asylum seekers who appear
to the Borders and Immigration Agency to have a clear care need
and an urgent need for services are referred to social services.
The asylum support application also gives the applicant and dependants
an opportunity to record any medical conditions.
9.20 The Minister says that:
"We are disappointed with the number of factual
inaccuracies relating to the UK contained in this evaluation.
We are concerned that it does not accurately describe how the
provisions of the Directive have been operating in practice [and]
whether the provisions have had the desired outcome. As such it
does not provide a sound evidence base for considering how (if
at all) the Reception Conditions Directive needs to be amended."
The Government will be raising its concerns with
9.21 We welcome the Minister's frank and robust
assessment of the Commission's report. Member States have agreed
that any new proposals for legislation on a common European asylum
system must be preceded by a thorough evaluation of the Directives
which have already been adopted. We would expect the Commission
to ensure, therefore, that this report on one of those Directives
is factually accurate. Accordingly, we ask the Minister to tell
us the Commission's response to her concerns about the accuracy
of the references to the situation in the UK. We should also be
grateful if she would obtain the Commission's explanation for
its failure to produce the report by the date set by the Directive.
We shall, therefore, keep the document under scrutiny pending
the Minister's reply to our request for further information.
25 OJ No. L 31, 6.2.03, p.18. Back
Commission report, page 10, final paragraph. Back
Commission report, page 3, paragraph 4. Back
Ibid, page 3, penultimate paragraph. Back
Ibid, page 4, paragraph 7. Back
Ibid, page 5, paragraph 3. Back
Ibid, page 7, paragraph 5 and page 8, paragraph 5. Back
Ibid, page 8, final paragraph. Back
Ibid, page 9, paragraph 3. Back