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Brussels Calls for Better Treatment for Asylum Seekers

The EU should make it easier for asylum seekers to find work, take better care of vulnerable applicants and clear up the question of what country handles what asylum request, the EU's executive said.

Two faces behind a blue gate

Asylum-seekers should be treated equally well no matter what EU country they're in

Pointing out the variety of ways the 27 members of the European Union deal with asylum applicants, the European Commission on Wednesday, Dec. 3, called on nations to coordinate their policies.

"There is a big difference from member state to member state" in the number of asylum applications they receive and the proportion which they approve, and "this is injustice, because the burden on certain member states is considerably different," EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot told journalists in Brussels.

With the progressive abolition of border checks within the EU, the union has created an area of free travel that stretches from eastern Hungary to Portugal.

Clear rules needed

That has forced member states to draw up rules on how they should deal with asylum seekers, and, in particular, what to do if an asylum seeker reaches the EU in one country but then immediately moves on to another -- the so-called "Dublin rules."

But member states and non-governmental organizations both complain that the system is not working in practice, with asylum-seekers from the same country treated in different ways in different EU states.

The EU's executive, the European Commission, has therefore proposed that the bloc tighten up the Dublin rules to clear up questions such as which country should deal with an individual asylum application, and to set strict limits on the practice of detaining asylum seekers.

It has also called for member states to give asylum seekers better access to local labor markets by offering them a work permit within six months of their applying for asylum.

Barrot's proposals also call for a tightening of the rules on an EU-wide system of recording and sharing the fingerprints of refugees, in a bid to make exchanges of information between member states more efficient without breaching EU rules on data protection.

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