Refugee rights subsiding?
Europe’s two-tier protection regime and its effect on the rights of beneficiaries
The European Union (EU) has developed a two-tier framework for the protection of those fleeing persecution and serious harm, drawing a normative distinction between refugee status and subsidiary protection. While the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is premised on the existence of harmonised standards of protection and outcomes of asylum procedures, the assumption of a common protection space across the continent has never been realised and continues to be dispelled by the practice of asylum administrations to date. The “asylum lottery” results in asylum seekers having widely disparate chances of obtaining international protection, as well as different forms of protection granted, depending on the country where their claim is processed.
Differences in the status granted have direct and far-reaching impact on the lives of beneficiaries of international protection, given that they entail a widely different set of rights between refugees and subsidiary protection holders in some countries.
From an efficiency and integration perspective, the advantages of the full alignment of refugee status and subsidiary protection under EU law are clear. De-coupling the content and level of rights from the type of international protection status granted could:
- Foster integration in a more coherent manner, by providing all persons in need of international protection with the tools to become active members of new host societies;
- Reduce litigation costs related to the form of international protection granted;
- Reduce potential secondary movements between countries related to the level of rights granted to holders of the status in question;
- Reduce administrative burden on national authorities by removing undue complexity and fragmentation in integration policies and rules. This would not only affect asylum and immigration authorities, but also employment authorities, social welfare services, or even health care institutions across Europe.
Successful integration of beneficiaries of international protection is generally acknowledged as one of the key challenges for European countries’ asylum policies in the coming years. The current discussions on the reform of the Qualification Directive present a unique opportunity to establish an EU legal framework that supports national, regional and local authorities and beneficiaries of international protection in their integration efforts. Beyond the reform of the Directive, ECRE encourages European countries to further approximate the content of international protection statuses in their national frameworks and practices in the interest of a smoother integration process.