EU seeks to improve treatment of asylum seekers
The European Union is proposing a more humanitarian approach toward asylum seekers in order to ease its burden.
BRUSSELS -- The European Union on Wednesday proposed extra rights and protections for asylum seekers and said it wanted to take the burden off the main receipient nations.
"Our aim is to put the asylum seekers at the heart of a human and fair procedure," said EU Justice and Security Commissioner Jacques Barrot.
"We need to ensure higher standards of protection, a more equal level playing field and higher efficiency for the system," he added.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, proposed modifying and easing several rules to work towards an EU asylum system.
Europe has already adopted a pact to organise legal immigration, fight illegal immigration and reinforce border controls.
The commission said asylum seekers should not be returned to the EU member state where they entered the bloc if it "cannot offer them an adequate standard of protection."
Greece has come under particular criticism for its treatment of asylum seekers.
Some 3,000 migrants mostly from Afghanistan, Somalia and Sudan stuck in the Greek port of Patras are living on the streets or in a makeshift camp, the UN refugee agency said Wednesday.
"Several hundred migrants, including minors, live in a makeshift camp near the port of Patras, without water and in deplorable hygienic conditions, while others are on the streets of the city," Ketty Kehagioglou, the agency's representative in Athens, told AFP.
The number of asylum seekers in the EU has been decreasing over recent years, totalling 220,000 in 2007.
The UNHCR says that only seven of the 27 EU states had refugee resettlement programmes to welcome Iraqi nationals who have been forced to flee their homes, for example.
Greece and fellow Mediterranean nations Cyprus, Italy, Malta and Spain have been most affected by the arrival of asylum seekers and migrants in recent years, with many risking dangerous journeys on overcrowded and rickety boats in their bid to reach Europe.
The proposal also introduces extra guarantees on the right of appeal against transfer decisions, and eases family reunification.
It would also establish rules to ensure that member states delete data that "is no longer necessary for the purpose for which were collected."
Barrot underlined the need for a more coordinated and clear trans-EU asylum policy by listing the varying results that asylum applications receive in EU nations.
"In some countries, like Italy, Sweden or Malta, 50 percent of requests get a positive response. But in others, like Slovenia, Slovakia and Greece the percentage is three percent," he said.
Barrot added that the new rules would "improve the living conditions of asylum seekers, restrict their detention to limited and justified grounds ... and properly address the needs of vulnerable persons, such as victims of torture."