Claims of asylum inconsistently examined across European Union – UN

An asylum-seeker being questioned in a European country

26 March 2010 – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has found that among 12 European Union (EU) nations, there are inconsistencies in the way asylum applications are assessed.

The EU’s Asylum Procedures Directive, adopted in 2005, seeks to ensure that refugee status determination is uniform across the regional bloc and sets out guarantees for asylum procedures, including the right to a personal interview, and the right to appeal decisions.

Last year, nearly 250,000 asylum claims were registered across the EU, the UN agency noted in a new study.

“It found thatApplicants were not always granted interviews, given enough time to prepare for them or to explain their claims. Member States are applying the Directive inconsistently, in come cases in ways that may breach international refugee law,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told reporters today in Geneva.

Applicants were not always granted interviews, given enough time to prepare for them or to explain their claims. Further, interpreters were not always on hand or were qualified.

In one country, UNHCR found 171 identically-worded interview reports, with only the name of the applicant and country of origin having been changed.

At the time of the agency’s research, three countries used lists of so-called ‘safe countries of origin’ to make their decisions, but these lists different among nations.

“Only one country [Ghana] appeared on the list of all three States, although in one of them Ghana was only considered ‘safe’ for men,” Ms. Fleming noted.

Additionally, she pointed out, accelerated process have curbed safeguards designed to protect asylum-seekers, giving rise to the risk that their protection needs are not properly identified and that they may be sent back to countries where they face persecution or serious harm.

The one dozen countries studied for the report, which also applauded successes such as good cross-cultural communications skills, were: Belgium, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Spain and the United Kingdom.

More than 1,000 individual case files and asylum decisions were studied, while researches observed hundreds of applicants’ interviews and spoke with asylum officials, judges, lawyers and other officials.

UNHCR, based on the study, is calling for the EU to improve its practices, including training of officials examining asylum claims, as well as setting up guidelines and codes of conduct for interviewers and interpreters.


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