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Strengthening Refugee Protection and Meeting Challenges: The European Union’s Next Steps on Asylum
Policy Briefs
June 2014

Strengthening Refugee Protection and Meeting Challenges: The European Union’s Next Steps on Asylum

While great progress has been made towards creation of a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) that establishes shared standards for refugee protection in the European Union (EU), important obstacles to its full and effective operation remain. The evolving global context of conflict and displacement, highlighted by the Syria crisis, failures by many States to protect their citizens, and mixed migration more broadly will continue to throw up new challenges in the asylum domain in the years ahead for the European Union and Member States, requiring robust systems and policies that can be adapted to meet them.

At the end of June 2014, the European Council, comprising the heads of state and government of the European Union’s 28 Member States, will adopt strategic guidelines for the Justice and Home Affairs (JHA) area, including asylum. The guidelines, which will define the way forward on the JHA portfolio for the 2014-20 period, have the potential to offer clear direction for the further development of asylum policy and cooperation at the EU level. To achieve this, however, the guidelines will need to address key priorities in practical and principled terms, and accommodate widely differing perspectives among Member States, EU institutions, and other stakeholders. Looking beyond the guidelines, European policymakers will need to explore the ways in which these priorities can be translated into action. The Migration Policy Institute Europe and the International Migration Initiative of the Open Society Foundations, through their ongoing project on the future of asylum in the European Union, are examining a number of the current challenges as well as possible ways to address them.

This policy brief identifies the main issues that should be included in the strategic guidelines on asylum, and emphasises the need for a strong basis for future action. The brief recommends increased engagement by Member States in practical cooperation as a way to strengthen implementation and consolidation of existing EU laws and achieve more consistent, high-quality asylum decision-making. It further calls for a common understanding of "solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility," and concrete measures to put these key principles into practical effect; expanded resettlement to the European Union; investment in integration strategies for those granted protection; and work towards deepened cooperation and more joint approaches in the longer term, to meet the significant challenges ahead for the European Union in the asylum field.

Table of Contents 

I. Introduction

II. A New Horizon for Development of the CEAS

III. Future Priorities on Asylum

A. Consolidation and Implementation of the CEAS

B. Solidarity and Fair Sharing of Responsibility

C. Coordination and Comprehensive Approaches

D. Flexible Asylum Systems

E. Access to Protection in the European Union

F. The European Union's Relationship with Other Countries: The 'External Dimension'

G. Further Engagement in Joint EU Action on Asylum

H. Finding a Balance with Migration Management

IV. Conclusions and Recommendations: Beyond the Strategic Guidelines