Documents considered by the Committee on 22 February 2017 Contents

8EU asylum reform

Committee’s assessment

Legally and politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee

Document details

(a) Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Union Resettlement Framework

(b) Proposal for a Regulation on standards for determining who qualifies for international protection, a uniform status for refugees or individuals eligible for subsidiary protection, and the content of the protection granted

(c) Proposal for a Regulation establishing a common procedure for international protection in the European Union and repealing Directive 2013/32/EU

(d) Proposal for a Directive laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast)

Legal base

(a) Article 78(2)(d) and (g) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

(b) Articles 78(2)(a) and (b) and 79(2) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

(c) Article 78(2)(d) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

(d) Article 78(2)(f) TFEU, ordinary legislative procedure, QMV

Department

Home Office

Document Numbers

(a) (37966), 11313/16, COM(16) 468

(b) (37967), 11316/16 + ADD 1, COM(16) 466

(c) (37968), 11317/16 + ADDs 1–2, COM(16) 467

(d) (37969), 11318/16, COM(16) 465

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

8.1In 2016 the Commission proposed a comprehensive package of EU asylum reforms which is intended to establish “an effective and protective” asylum system “based on harmonised rules and mutual trust between Member States”. The reforms have been put forward in two phases. The first phase concerned changes to the Dublin rules and to the associated Eurodac database which establish criteria and mechanisms for allocating responsibility for asylum claims made within the EU. It also included a proposal to transform the European Asylum Support Office into a new EU Asylum Agency with s stronger mandate to oversee the application of EU asylum laws.

8.2Documents (a) to (d) form part of the second phase of asylum reforms. Document (a)—the proposed EU Resettlement Regulation—would apply to third country (non-EU) nationals outside the EU who are in need of international protection. The Commission believes that a comprehensive EU framework for resettlement would lead to a gradual “scaling up” of Member States’ collective resettlement efforts, enable the EU to contribute more effectively to global resettlement initiatives by making a single, EU-wide resettlement pledge, and “discourage irregular and dangerous journeys and save lives” by offering “alternative legal pathways” to the EU.22

8.3The remaining documents would apply to third country nationals who are already in the EU when they apply for asylum. Document (b)—the proposed Qualification Regulation—concerns the criteria applied by Member States to determine whether a third country (non-EU) national seeking asylum qualifies for international protection. The Commission believes that “applicants for international protection must have the same chance of obtaining the same form of protection, or having their claim rejected, irrespective of where they apply for asylum in the Union”.23 Its aim is to produce greater convergence in asylum recognition rates across the EU, harmonise the rights accorded to beneficiaries of international protection, introduce more frequent “status reviews”, and apply stricter rules to discourage secondary movements between Member States.24

8.4Document (c)—the proposed Asylum Procedures Regulation—would harmonise asylum procedures throughout the EU in an attempt to reduce the “pull factors” which may draw individuals to Member States with the most favourable asylum recognition rates and reception conditions and result in an uneven distribution of asylum seekers and sharing of responsibility amongst Member States. Document (d)—the proposed Reception Conditions Directive—has a two-fold purpose: to ensure that all Member States provide “sufficient and decent reception conditions” while an application for international protection is being examined, and to reduce “wide divergences” in the reception conditions currently provided by Member States. The proposal takes the form of a Directive rather than a Regulation as the Commission recognises that full harmonisation is neither feasible nor desirable given the “significant differences in Member States’ social and economic conditions”.25

8.5We have been critical of the Government’s handling of these documents which are all subject to the UK’s Title V (Justice and Home Affairs) opt-in. Despite recommending at our meeting on 14 September that the Government’s opt-in decisions should be debated, the opt-in debate did not take place until 19 December, after the three month deadline for opting in at the negotiating stage had expired on all four proposals. We have asked the Immigration Minister (Mr Robert Goodwill) to give evidence in person to explain why there have been substantial lapses in the scrutiny process and how he intends to prevent any recurrence in the future.

8.6In his latest update, the Minister assures us that:

“… we are committed to high quality and timely parliamentary scrutiny; it remains a priority and we will continue to monitor our handling of scrutiny.”

8.7He responds to outstanding questions from our earlier Reports on these documents and provides a brief progress report on negotiations.

8.8We are grateful for the Minister’s update which sets out the Maltese Presidency’s approach and Member States’ concerns. We remind him that we await further information on a number of the concerns raised with us by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) which are set out in the Conclusions of our Twenty-fourth Report agreed on 14 December. For ease of reference, these are:

8.9We ask the Minister to confirm that he has issued a Written Ministerial Statement informing the House of the Government’s decision not to opt into the proposed EU Resettlement Regulation and the reasons for its decision.

8.10We ask the Minister to provide progress reports on the negotiations with a view, once the outcome is clearer, to explaining the potential impact of any divergences in the asylum rules applied by the UK and the EU on the UK’s asylum system once it has left the EU. We expect the Minister to set out the main differences between the Commission’s original proposals any general approach agreed by the Council and to update us on any developments in the European Parliament.

8.11The documents remain under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee.

Full details of the documents

(a) Proposal for a Regulation establishing a Union Resettlement Framework and amending Regulation (EU) No 516/2014: (37966), 11313/16, COM(16) 468. (b) Proposal for a Regulation on standards for the qualification of third country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection and for the content of the protection granted and amending Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 concerning the status of third country nationals who are long-term residents: (37967), 11316/16 + ADD 1, COM (16) 466. (c) Proposal for a Regulation establishing a common procedure for international protection in the European Union and repealing Directive 2013/32/EU: (37968), 11317/16 + ADDs 1–2, COM(16) 467.(d) Proposal for a Directive laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (recast): (37969), 11318/16, COM(16) 465.

Background

8.12Our earlier Reports listed at the end of this chapter provide a detailed overview of the proposals and the Government’s position.

The Minister’s letter of 10 February 2017

8.13We asked the Minister, when providing progress reports on negotiations, to indicate whether the proposals are likely to lead to a greater or lesser degree of convergence in the asylum rules and procedures applied by the UK and by other EU Member States and, once the outcome is clearer, to provide an assessment of the impact that different rules might be expected to have on the UK asylum system post-Brexit.

8.14The Minister responds:

“As I set out in my letter of 11 January, this is a matter for the Government to consider as part of considerations for exiting the EU. The Government notes that if the EU adopts the proposals in their current form, there may be some divergences between the asylum rules in EU and the UK. The Government will consider potential impact of convergence and divergence and, as previously committed, will keep the Committee fully abreast of developments at the earliest opportunity.”

8.15He provides the following update on negotiations:

“Negotiations on the Asylum Procedures Regulation, Qualification Regulation, Reception Conditions Directive (recast) and EU Resettlement Framework are continuing at working level. Whilst less controversial than the other three asylum proposals [proposed Regulations reforming the Dublin rules and Eurodac and transforming the European Asylum Support Office into the EU Asylum Agency], the first reading of these proposals has revealed some divisions between Member States in their national approach to asylum systems, particularly on elements of the proposals which will require the investment of significant resources. As expected, a number of Member States raised concerns with the choice of a Regulation as opposed to a Directive. On the resettlement proposal, some Member States share our view on the importance of retaining national resettlement schemes. There are some concerns on the financial elements of the proposal, which we agree with, that funding for national schemes should not be jeopardised by funding EU resettlement.”

8.16The Minister describes how the Maltese Presidency is expected to take forward negotiations:

“Going forward, we understand the Maltese Presidency will seek to simplify and expedite discussions on the texts of the draft Qualification Regulation, the draft Asylum Procedures Regulation, the draft Reception Conditions Directive and the draft Dublin Regulation by adopting a thematic approach. The Presidency proposes to discuss them in three themes: Limiting Abuse and Secondary Movements; Socio-Economic Rights of Asylum Seekers and Beneficiaries of International Protection; and Guarantees for those with Special Needs. As discussions are ongoing, I will provide a further update in due course.”

Previous Committee Reports

Twenty-sixth Report HC 71-xxiv (2016–17), chapter 8 (18 January 2017), Twenty-fifth Report HC 71-xxiii (2016–17), chapter 10 (11 January 2017), Twenty-fourth Report HC 71-xxii (2016–17), chapter 2 (14 December 2016), Twentieth Report HC 71-xviii (2016–17), chapter 1, chapter 2 and chapter 3 (23 November 2016), and Twelfth Report HC 71-x (2016–17), chapter 1, chapter 2 and chapter 3 (14 September 2016).


22 See p.5 of the Commission’s explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposed Regulation.

23 See the Commission’s fact sheet on its latest asylum reform proposals.

24 See the Commission’s infographic on the changes proposed.

25 See p.6 of the Commission’s explanatory memorandum accompanying the proposed recast Directive.




24 February 2017