New European asylum system approved

European Parliament has approved the new rules laying down common procedures and deadlines for handling asylum applications and basic rights for asylum seekers arriving in the EU.

Under the new rules approved on 12th June 2013, all member states will be required to handle asylum applications within six months, with limited exceptions. Previously the EU law didn’t impose specific deadlines on member states for deciding on asylum applications.

The new system introduces stricter rules on training staff dealing with asylum seekers and new provisions for the special needs of unaccompanied minors and other vulnerable persons.

It also introduces a shortlist of grounds for detaining asylum seekers and requires member states to provide decent detention and living conditions for asylum seekers.

Member states will also be required to carry out an early assessment of asylum seekers' medical and psychological needs and allow them swifter access to the labour market (nine months after lodging an asylum application).

As a general rule, if asylum seekers are detained, they will have to be placed in specialised detention facilities.

The Dublin regulation determines which country is responsible for dealing with an asylum request (usually the one through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU). Under the new rules, asylum seekers will not be transferred to EU countries where there is a risk of inhuman or degrading treatment. These rules will also introduce an early-warning mechanism to help tackle problems in national asylum systems before they turn into crises.

Under the new rules, member states’ police forces and Europol will have access to asylum seekers’ fingerprints in the Eurodac database, to help them fight terrorism and serious crime. At the request of MEPs, stricter data-protection provisions and new safeguards to ensure that data is not used for other purposes, will apply.

The new asylum system updates laws passed about a decade ago. Some 330,000 asylum applicants were registered in EU countries in 2012.

The new asylum rules, which have already been agreed by Parliament and Council representatives and backed by national governments, should enter into force in the second half of 2015.

The Dublin rules on transfers of asylum seekers will take effect six months after their legal entry into force (i.e. at the start of 2014).

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