Mathilde Crepin, PhD Candidate Dickson Poon School of law, UNHCR appointed judge at the national court of asylum law (CNDA) in Paris
In 2011, the political turmoil in North Africa and in the Middle East prompted the flight of millions of people from their home place. Some of them attempted to seek protection in Europe, causing a significant rise of asylum applications in the Member States of the European Union (EU) in 2013 and 2014. Under both International and EU Law. Member States have the obligation to take efficient and coordinated measures to address the needs of refugees and this necessity is even more pressing in light of the latest statistics, estimating that approximately one million asylum applications will be lodged in the European Union in 2015.
Unfortunately, Member States have proven relatively unable to respond to this humanitarian crisis at the European level. EU countries agreed in 1999 to create a Common European Asylum System (CEAS), setting up minimum standards for harmonizing asylum systems in Europe. However, instead of consistently applying the provisions of the CEAS, Member States have adopted unilateral measures to tackle the outflow of asylum seekers in their territory. In response to this situation, the Commission issued in September 2015 a decision on 40 infringements directed at 19 governments of the EU. At this occasion, the European Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, stated that the CEAS could function only if everyone “played by the rules”. However, the inability or unwillingness of the Member States to “play by the rules” reveals deeper concerns, namely that the CEAS might not be adequate to efficiently tackle the current needs of asylum seekers and migrants in Europe.