Cover: Veilige landen van herkomst: Een internationale vergelijking van de toepassing van het 'veilige landen van herkomst'-concept in asielbeleid

Veilige landen van herkomst: Een internationale vergelijking van de toepassing van het 'veilige landen van herkomst'-concept in asielbeleid

[Safe countries of origin: An international comparison of the application of the 'safe countries of origin' concept in asylum policy]

Published Mar 19, 2024

by Lana Eekelschot, Emma Zürcher, Fook Nederveen, Felicitas Hochstrasser, Stijn Hoorens

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Summary

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Samenvatting

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Research Questions

  1. How do other Member States select countries for assessment?
  2. Based on what sources and criteria do other Member States carry out the initial assessment, and what does the procedure look like?
  3. Are the assessments and reassessments publicly accessible?
  4. Based on what sources and criteria do other Member States carry out the reassessment and how often do these take place?
  5. Are any groups and/or geographic areas excluded from the safe country of origin designation? If so, based on what criteria and is there a limit to the number of excluded groups for a country to still qualify as a safe country of origin?
  6. What does the asylum procedure look like for applicants coming from a safe country of origin?
  7. Do different conditions apply to reception and return procedures for asylum seekers from safe countries, and how does the return compare to that of other rejected asylum seekers?
  8. Is relevant case law available, does the policy hold up in court and are there any vulnerabilities?
  9. What are the differences in other Member States' safe country of origin policies compared to the Netherlands?

Note: This report is in Dutch. An English-language summary is available.

Asylum procedures can be accelerated in many European countries for asylum seekers from so-called 'safe countries of origin'. Broadly defined, these are countries where it can be demonstrated that there is generally and consistently no persecution, no torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and no threat by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict. Asylum seekers from safe countries of origin are assumed to have a low probability of being granted asylum.

Most European countries implement safe country of origin policies using a list which contains third countries that have been assessed and subsequently designated as safe. However, these lists differ across Member States, not only in length, but also in terms of the countries included. For instance, some Member States have fewer than 10 safe countries on their list, while others consider nearly 30 countries to be safe.

Limited research has thus far been conducted on the reasons for these differences and, therefore, there appears to be a general lack of understanding of European Member States' policies regarding safe countries of origin lists, the procedures for (re)assessments of countries on the list and the justifications for safe country of origin policy choices. Moreover, it is not always clear how such choices affect countries' asylum procedures.

The main aim of this study is to provide insight into the application of safe country of origin policies in a selection of EU Member States.

Key Findings

  • The motivation for selecting a country to be assessed is mostly uniform across countries: third countries are most often chosen for assessment because of large numbers of asylum applications with low granting rates.
  • The responsibility for designating countries as safe varies, but generally one or two government bodies have the relevant authority. Only in Germany is parliamentary approval required.
  • The same criteria and sources generally apply to assessments and re-assessments and these are usually public, but it remains unclear how they are weighted.
  • The frequency of the mandatory 'regular' periodic reassessment (stipulated by the Asylum Procedure Directive [APD]) is not uniformly interpreted and varies for instance from one to two years across examined countries.
  • The application of exceptions to the presumption of safety is debated in the examined countries and the APD is not uniformly interpreted. Only the Netherlands and Italy apply exceptions to groups and regions, but specific criteria for this have not been found.
  • All assessed countries apply simplified asylum procedures for asylum seekers from safe countries of origin but the contents differ. For instance, regarding timeframes, the number of asylum interviews conducted and the length of the appeal period.
  • Asylum seekers from safe countries of origin are typically placed in mixed reception facilities. Of the examined countries, only in the Netherlands and Germany special accommodation is designed.
  • Jurisprudence seems to influence policymaking in the case studies only to a limited extent, and to a lesser extent as in the Netherlands.

Research conducted by

This research was prepared for Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek- en Datacentrum (WODC) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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