DIRECTIVE No. 2013/32/EU
OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL ON COMMON PROCEDURES FOR GRANTING AND WITHDRAWING INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION
The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union,
Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular Article 78(2)(d) thereof,
Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,
Having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee <*>,
<*> OJ C 24, 28.1.2012, p. 79.
After consulting the Committee of the Regions, Acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure <*>,
<*> Position of the European Parliament of 6 April 2011 (OJ C 296 E, 2.10.2012, p. 184) and position of the Council at first reading of 6 June 2013 (not yet published in the Official Journal). Position of the European Parliament of 10 June 2013 (not yet published in the Official Journal).
(1) A number of substantive changes are to be made to Council Directive 2005/85/EC of 1 December 2005 on minimum standards on procedures for granting and withdrawing refugee status <*>. In the interest of clarity, that Directive should be recast.
<*> OJ L 326, 13.12.2005, p. 13.
(2) A common policy on asylum, including a Common European Asylum System, is a constituent part of the European Union’s objective of establishing progressively an area of freedom, security and justice open to those who, forced by circumstances, legitimately seek protection in the Union. Such a policy should be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States.
(3) The European Council, at its special meeting in Tampere on 15 and 16 October 1999, agreed to work towards establishing a Common European Asylum System, based on the full and inclusive application of the Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees of 28 July 1951, as amended by the New York Protocol of 31 January 1967 («the Geneva Convention»), thus affirming the principle of non-refoulement and ensuring that nobody is sent back to persecution.
(4) The Tampere Conclusions provide that a Common European Asylum System should include, in the short term, common standards for fair and efficient asylum procedures in the Member States and, in the longer term, Union rules leading to a common asylum procedure in the Union.
(5) The first phase of a Common European Asylum System was achieved through the adoption of relevant legal instruments provided for in the Treaties, including Directive 2005/85/EC, which was a first measure on asylum procedures.
(6) The European Council, at its meeting of 4 November 2004, adopted The Hague Programme, which set the objectives to be implemented in the area of freedom, security and justice in the period 2005-10. In this respect, The Hague Programme invited the European Commission to conclude the evaluation of the first-phase legal instruments and to submit the second-phase instruments and measures to the European Parliament and to the Council. In accordance with The Hague Programme, the objective to be pursued for the creation of the Common European Asylum System is the establishment of a common asylum procedure and a uniform status valid throughout the Union.
(7) In the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, adopted on 16 October 2008, the European Council noted that considerable disparities remained between one Member State and another concerning the grant of protection and called for new initiatives, including a proposal for establishing a single asylum procedure comprising common guarantees, to complete the establishment of a Common European Asylum System, provided for in The Hague Programme.
(8) The European Council, at its meeting of 10 — 11 December 2009, adopted the Stockholm Programme which reiterated the commitment to the objective of establishing by 2012 a common area of protection and solidarity based on a common asylum procedure and a uniform status for those granted international protection based on high protection standards and fair and effective procedures. The Stockholm Programme affirmed that people in need of international protection must be ensured access to legally safe and efficient asylum procedures. In accordance with the Stockholm Programme, individuals should be offered the same level of treatment as regards procedural arrangements and status determination, regardless of the Member State in which their application for international protection is lodged. The objective is that similar cases should be treated alike and result in the same outcome.
(9) The resources of the European Refugee Fund and of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) should be mobilised to provide adequate support to Member States’ efforts in implementing the standards set in the second phase of the Common European Asylum System, in particular to those Member States which are faced with specific and disproportionate pressures on their asylum systems, due in particular to their geographical or demographic situation.
(10) When implementing this Directive, Member States should take into account relevant guidelines developed by EASO.
(11) In order to ensure a comprehensive and efficient assessment of the international protection needs of applicants within the meaning of Directive 2011/95/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 13 December 2011 on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted <*>, the Union framework on procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection should be based on the concept of a single procedure.
<*> OJ L 337, 20.12.2011, p. 9.
(12) The main objective of this Directive is to further develop the standards for procedures in Member States for granting and withdrawing international protection with a view to establishing a common asylum procedure in the Union.
(13) The approximation of rules on the procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection should help to limit the secondary movements of applicants for international protection between Member States, where such movements would be caused by differences in legal frameworks, and to create equivalent conditions for the application of Directive 2011/95/EU in Member States.
(14) Member States should have the power to introduce or maintain more favourable provisions for third-country nationals or stateless persons who ask for international protection from a Member State, where such a request is understood to be on the grounds that the person concerned is in need of international protection within the meaning of Directive 2011/95/EU.
(15) With respect to the treatment of persons falling within the scope of this Directive, Member States are bound by obligations under instruments of international law to which they are party.
(16) It is essential that decisions on all applications for international protection be taken on the basis of the facts and, in the first instance, by authorities whose personnel has the appropriate knowledge or has received the necessary training in the field of international protection.
(17) In order to ensure that applications for international protection are examined and decisions thereon are taken objectively and impartially, it is necessary that professionals acting in the framework of the procedures provided for in this Directive perform their activities with due respect for the applicable deontological principles.
(18) It is in the interests of both Member States and applicants for international protection that a decision is made as soon as possible on applications for international protection, without prejudice to an adequate and complete examination being carried out.
(19) In order to shorten the overall duration of the procedure in certain cases, Member States should have the flexibility, in accordance with their national needs, to prioritise the examination of any application by examining it before other, previously made applications, without derogating from normally applicable procedural time limits, principles and guarantees.
(20) In well-defined circumstances where an application is likely to be unfounded or where there are serious national security or public order concerns, Member States should be able to accelerate the examination procedure, in particular by introducing shorter, but reasonable, time limits for certain procedural steps, without prejudice to an adequate and complete examination being carried out and to the applicant’s effective access to basic principles and guarantees provided for in this Directive.
(21) As long as an applicant can show good cause, the lack of documents on entry or the use of forged documents should not per se entail an automatic recourse to border or accelerated procedures.
(22) It is also in the interests of both Member States and applicants to ensure a correct recognition of international protection needs already at first instance. To that end, applicants should be provided at first instance, free of charge, with legal and procedural information, taking into account their particular circumstances. The provision of such information should, inter alia, enable the applicants to better understand the procedure, thus helping them to comply with the relevant obligations. It would be disproportionate to require Member States to provide such information only through the services of qualified lawyers. Member States should therefore have the possibility to use the most appropriate means to provide such information, such as through non-governmental organisations or professionals from government authorities or specialised services of the State.
(23) In appeals procedures, subject to certain conditions, applicants should be granted free legal assistance and representation provided by persons competent to provide them under national law. Furthermore, at all stages of the procedure, applicants should have the right to consult, at their own cost, legal advisers or counsellors admitted or permitted as such under national law.
(24) The notion of public order may, inter alia, cover a conviction for having committed a serious crime.
(25) In the interests of a correct recognition of those persons in need of protection as refugees within the meaning of Article 1 of the Geneva Convention or as persons eligible for subsidiary protection, every applicant should have an effective access to procedures, the opportunity to cooperate and properly communicate with the competent authorities so as to present the relevant facts of his or her case and sufficient procedural guarantees to pursue his or her case throughout all stages of the procedure. Moreover, the procedure in which an application for international protection is examined should normally provide an applicant at least with: the right to stay pending a decision by the determining authority; access to the services of an interpreter for submitting his or her case if interviewed by the authorities; the opportunity to communicate with a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and with organisations providing advice or counselling to applicants for international protection; the right to appropriate notification of a decision and of the reasons for that decision in fact and in law; the opportunity to consult a legal adviser or other counsellor; the right to be informed of his or her legal position at decisive moments in the course of the procedure, in a language which he or she understands or is reasonably supposed to understand; and, in the case of a negative decision, the right to an effective remedy before a court or a tribunal.
(26) With a view to ensuring effective access to the examination procedure, officials who first come into contact with persons seeking international protection, in particular officials carrying out the surveillance of land or maritime borders or conducting border checks, should receive relevant information and necessary training on how to recognise and deal with applications for international protection, inter alia, taking due account of relevant guidelines developed by EASO. They should be able to provide third-country nationals or stateless persons who are present in the territory, including at the border, in the territorial waters or in the transit zones of the Member States, and who make an application for international protection, with relevant information as to where and how applications for international protection may be lodged. Where those persons are present in the territorial waters of a Member State, they should be disembarked on land and have their applications examined in accordance with this Directive.
(27) Given that third-country nationals and stateless persons who have expressed their wish to apply for international protection are applicants for international protection, they should comply with the obligations, and benefit from the rights, under this Directive and Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection <*>. To that end, Member States should register the fact that those persons are applicants for international protection as soon as possible.
<*> See page 96 of this Official Journal.
(28) In order to facilitate access to the examination procedure at border crossing points and in detention facilities, information should be made available on the possibility to apply for international protection. Basic communication necessary to enable the competent authorities to understand if persons declare their wish to apply for international protection should be ensured through interpretation arrangements.
(29) Certain applicants may be in need of special procedural guarantees due, inter alia, to their age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, serious illness, mental disorders or as a consequence of torture, rape or other serious forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence. Member States should endeavour to identify applicants in need of special procedural guarantees before a first instance decision is taken. Those applicants should be provided with adequate support, including sufficient time, in order to create the conditions necessary for their effective access to procedures and for presenting the elements needed to substantiate their application for international protection.
(30) Where adequate support cannot be provided to an applicant in need of special procedural guarantees in the framework of accelerated or border procedures, such an applicant should be exempted from those procedures. The need for special procedural guarantees of a nature that could prevent the application of accelerated or border procedures should also mean that the applicant is provided with additional guarantees in cases where his or her appeal does not have automatic suspensive effect, with a view to making the remedy effective in his or her particular circumstances.
(31) National measures dealing with identification and documentation of symptoms and signs of torture or other serious acts of physical or psychological violence, including acts of sexual violence, in procedures covered by this Directive may, inter alia, be based on the Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Istanbul Protocol).
(32) With a view to ensuring substantive equality between female and male applicants, examination procedures should be gender-sensitive. In particular, personal interviews should be organised in a way which makes it possible for both female and male applicants to speak about their past experiences in cases involving gender-based persecution. The complexity of gender-related claims should be properly taken into account in procedures based on the concept of safe third country, the concept of safe country of origin or the notion of subsequent applications.
(33) The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration of Member States when applying this Directive, in accordance with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (the Charter) and the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In assessing the best interest of the child, Member States should in particular take due account of the minor’s well-being and social development, including his or her background.
(34) Procedures for examining international protection needs should be such as to enable the competent authorities to conduct a rigorous examination of applications for international protection.
(35) When, in the framework of an application being processed, the applicant is searched, that search should be carried by a person of the same sex. This should be without prejudice to a search carried out, for security reasons, on the basis of national law.
(36) Where an applicant makes a subsequent application without presenting new evidence or arguments, it would be disproportionate to oblige Member States to carry out a new full examination procedure. In those cases, Member States should be able to dismiss an application as inadmissible in accordance with the res judicata principle.
(37) With respect to the involvement of the personnel of an authority other than the determining authority in conducting timely interviews on the substance of an application, the notion of «timely» should be assessed against the time limits provided for in Article 31.
(38) Many applications for international protection are made at the border or in a transit zone of a Member State prior to a decision on the entry of the applicant. Member States should be able to provide for admissibility and/or substantive examination procedures which would make it possible for such applications to be decided upon at those locations in well-defined circumstances.
(39) In determining whether a situation of uncertainty prevails in the country of origin of an applicant, Member States should ensure that they obtain precise and up-to-date information from relevant sources such as EASO, UNHCR, the Council of Europe and other relevant international organisations. Member States should ensure that any postponement of conclusion of the procedure fully complies with their obligations under Directive 2011/95/EU and Article 41 of the Charter, without prejudice to the efficiency and fairness of the procedures under this Directive.
(40) A key consideration for the well-foundedness of an application for international protection is the safety of the applicant in his or her country of origin. Where a third country can be regarded as a safe country of origin, Member States should be able to designate it as safe and presume its safety for a particular applicant, unless he or she presents counter-indications.
(41) Given the level of harmonisation achieved on the qualification of third-country nationals and stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, common criteria should be established for designating third countries as safe countries of origin.
(42) The designation of a third country as a safe country of origin for the purposes of this Directive cannot establish an absolute guarantee of safety for nationals of that country. By its very nature, the assessment underlying the designation can only take into account the general civil, legal and political circumstances in that country and whether actors of persecution, torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment are subject to sanction in practice when found liable in that country. For this reason, it is important that, where an applicant shows that there are valid reasons to consider the country not to be safe in his or her particular circumstances, the designation of the country as safe can no longer be considered relevant for him or her.
(43) Member States should examine all applications on the substance, i.e. assess whether the applicant in question qualifies for international protection in accordance with Directive 2011/95/EU, except where this Directive provides otherwise, in particular where it can reasonably be assumed that another country would do the examination or provide sufficient protection. In particular, Member States should not be obliged to assess the substance of an application for international protection where a first country of asylum has granted the applicant refugee status or otherwise sufficient protection and the applicant will be readmitted to that country.
(44) Member States should not be obliged to assess the substance of an application for international protection where the applicant, due to a sufficient connection to a third country as defined by national law, can reasonably be expected to seek protection in that third country, and there are grounds for considering that the applicant will be admitted or readmitted to that country. Member States should only proceed on that basis where that particular applicant would be safe in the third country concerned. In order to avoid secondary movements of applicants, common principles should be established for the consideration or designation by Member States of third countries as safe.
(45) Furthermore, with respect to certain European third countries, which observe particularly high human rights and refugee protection standards, Member States should be allowed to not carry out, or not to carry out full examination of, applications for international protection regarding applicants who enter their territory from such European third countries.
(46) Where Member States apply safe country concepts on a case-by-case basis or designate countries as safe by adopting lists to that effect, they should take into account, inter alia, the guidelines and operating manuals and the information on countries of origin and activities, including EASO Country of Origin Information report methodology, referred to in Regulation (EU) No 439/2010 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 19 May 2010 establishing a European Asylum Support Office <*>, as well as relevant UNHCR guidelines.
<*> OJ L 132, 29.5.2010, p. 11.
(47) In order to facilitate the regular exchange of information about the national application of the concepts of safe country of origin, safe third country and European safe third country as well as a regular review by the Commission of the use of those concepts by Member States, and to prepare for a potential further harmonisation in the future, Member States should notify or periodically inform the Commission about the third countries to which the concepts are applied. The Commission should regularly inform the European Parliament on the result of its reviews.
(48) In order to ensure the correct application of the safe country concepts based on up-to-date information, Member States should conduct regular reviews of the situation in those countries based on a range of sources of information, including in particular information from other Member States, EASO, UNHCR, the Council of Europe and other relevant international organisations. When Member States become aware of a significant change in the human rights situation in a country designated by them as safe, they should ensure that a review of that situation is conducted as soon as possible and, where necessary, review the designation of that country as safe.
(49) With respect to the withdrawal of refugee or subsidiary protection status, Member States should ensure that persons benefiting from international protection are duly informed of a possible reconsideration of their status and have the opportunity to submit their point of view before the authorities can take a reasoned decision to withdraw their status.
(50) It reflects a basic principle of Union law that the decisions taken on an application for international protection, the decisions concerning a refusal to reopen the examination of an application after its discontinuation, and the decisions on the withdrawal of refugee or subsidiary protection status are subject to an effective remedy before a court or tribunal.
(51) In accordance with Article 72 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), this Directive does not affect the exercise of the responsibilities incumbent upon Member States with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security.
(52) Directive 95/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 24 October 1995 on the protection of individuals with regard to the processing of personal data and on the free movement of such data <*> governs the processing of personal data carried out in the Member States pursuant to this Directive.
<*> OJ L 281, 23.11.1995, p. 31.
(53) This Directive does not deal with procedures between Member States governed by Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person <*>.
<*> See page 31 of this Official Journal.
(54) This Directive should apply to applicants to whom Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 applies, in addition and without prejudice to the provisions of that Regulation.
(55) The implementation of this Directive should be evaluated at regular intervals.
(56) Since the objective of this Directive, namely to establish common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale and effects of this Directive, be better achieved at Union level, the Union may adopt measures, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity as set out in Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU). In accordance with the principle of proportionality, as set out in that Article, this Directive does not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve that objective.
(57) In accordance with the Joint Political Declaration of Member States and the Commission on explanatory documents of 28 September 2011 <*>, Member States have undertaken to accompany, in justified cases, the notification of their transposition measures with one or more documents explaining the relationship between the components of a directive and the corresponding parts of national transposition instruments. With regard to this Directive, the legislator considers the transmission of such documents to be justified.
<*> OJ C 369, 17.12.2011, p. 14.
(58) In accordance with Articles 1, 2 and Article 4a(1) of Protocol No 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, annexed to the TEU and the TFEU, and without prejudice to Article 4 of that Protocol, the United Kingdom and Ireland are not taking part in the adoption of this Directive and are not bound by it or subject to its application.
(59) In accordance with Articles 1 and 2 of Protocol No 22 on the position of Denmark, annexed to the TEU and to the TFEU, Denmark is not taking part in the adoption of this Directive and is not bound by it or subject to its application.
(60) This Directive respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised by the Charter. In particular, this Directive seeks to ensure full respect for human dignity and to promote the application of Articles 1, 4, 18, 19, 21, 23, 24, and 47 of the Charter and has to be implemented accordingly.
(61) The obligation to transpose this Directive into national law should be confined to those provisions which represent a substantive change as compared with Directive 2005/85/EC. The obligation to transpose the provisions which are unchanged arises under that Directive.
(62) This Directive should be without prejudice to the obligations of the Member States relating to the time limit for transposition into national law of Directive 2005/85/EC set out in Annex II, Part B,
Have adopted this Directive: