09 Sep 2013

Current Challenges regarding the International Refugee Law, with focus on EU Policies and EU Co-operation with UNHCR

Elspeth Guild / Violeta Moreno-Lax

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From an examination of the instruments of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and related policy measures regarding border surveillance and migration management, two interrelated issues stand out as particularly sensitive: Access to asylum and responsibility for refugee protection. The prevailing view, supported by UNHCR and others, is that responsibility for the care of asylum seekers and the determination of their claims falls on the state within whose jurisdiction the claim is made. However, the possibility to shift that responsibility to another state through inter-state cooperation or unilateral mechanisms undertaken territorially as well as abroad has been a matter of great interest to EU Member States and institutions. Initiatives adopted so far challenge the prevailing view and have the potential to undermine compliance with international refugee and human rights law.

This note reviews EU action in the field by reference to the relevant legal standards and best practices developed by UNHCR, focusing on the specific problems of climate refugees and access to international protection, evaluating the inconsistencies between the internal and external dimension of asylum policy. Some recommendations for the European Parliament are formulated at the end, including on action in relation to readmission agreements, Frontex engagement rules in maritime operations, Regional Protection Programmes, and resettlement.

Prof. Elspeth Guild is Associate Senior Research Fellow in the Justice and Home Affairs Section at the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) and Jean Monnet Professor ad personam at Queen Mary, University of London as well as at the Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands. Dr. Violeta Moreno-Lax is a Lecturer in Law at Queen Mary, University of London and the EU Asylum Law Coordinator at the Refugee Law Initiative of the University of London.