Highlights at the national level

EASO Asylum Report 2020
Section 7. Highlights at the national level
This section provides an overview of developments in legislation, policy, practice and case law in EU+
countries throughout 2019. Concerns with aspects of national asylum systems are included from
national authorities, civil society organisations, UNHCR and other international organisations.
The sub-sections are organised by theme, following the steps of the asylum procedure:
7.1 Access to procedure: presents developments surrounding access to territory and the first steps
of the asylum procedure, including making, registering and lodging an application.
7.2 Access to information: details new initiatives in information provision throughout the different
stages of the asylum process.
7.3 Legal assistance and representation: changes are outlined in the provision of free legal
counselling and advice to applicants.
7.4 Interpretation services: amendments and concerns around the provision of interpretation are
7.5 Special procedures: presents new practices around border procedures, the safe country of
origin concept, accelerated procedures, a dmissibility procedures, subsequent applications and
prioritised caseloads.
7.6 Procedures at first instance: new approaches, measures, working methods and policies are
presented, along with legislative amendments, institutional changes, technological developments
and projects on monitoring and quality assurance.
7.7 Reception of applicants for international protection: shows how Member States reacted to
trends in international protection in terms of reception capacities and policies.
7.8 Detention: provides an overview of changes in dete ntion capacity, conditions, duration and
alternatives to detention.
7.9 Procedures at second instance: presents initiatives to make the procedures at second instance
more efficient and details changes regarding the su spensive effect of appeals against first
instance decisions, t ime limits for appeals, institutional changes for the authorities dealing with
appeals, ways of tackling the backlog of cases pending on appeal and safeguards provided to
7.10 Country of origin information: b riefly describes research and production o f information on
countries of origin information.
7.11 Statelessness: explores the relationship b etween statelessness and asylum, highlighting
associated challenges.
7.12 Content of protection: presents initiatives ta ken for the integration of recognised
beneficiaries of international protection based on the recast Qualification Directive.
7.13 Return of former applicants: overviews changes in procedures after a final negative decision
on an application is taken.
7.14 Resettlement and humanitarian admission programmes: presents resettlement efforts taken
by EU+ countries and developments in the framework of humanitarian admission programmes.
Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the European Union
7.1 Access to procedure
The term access to procedure covers access to territory and the first steps of the
asylum proc edure which include making, registering and lodging an application for
international protection. Effective access to procedure implies that people seeking
international protection need to be able to reach the authorities of a Member State
            T EU  A
Procedures Directive guides EU countries on common procedures to undertake when an asylum
application is submitted in the territory of a Member State, including at the border, in territorial
waters or in transit zones.
The Directive outlines access to procedure as a three-step process:
Making an application: A person expresses the wish to any national authority to apply for
international protection.
Registering an application: This is a procedural step where the competent authority officially
records the application for international protection.
Lodging an application: The application is formally lodged when all administrative formalities have
been completed.
Time limits for the examination of an application start running when the claim is lodged.
No major legislative or policy changes were reported for access to procedure i n 2019. Most EU+
countries focused on implementing and improving natio nal asylum procedures according to changes
in legislation, policy and practice which had been introduced over recent years.304 Continuing to
improve access to procedures and addressing flows of irregular migrants are essential when public
debate centred around fundamental legal, political and social    EU 
borders, in particular in relation to search and rescue in the Mediterranean Sea, disembarkation and
7.1.1 Access to territory
Access by sea
As challenges with territorial borders and sea arrivals continued throughout 2019, Member States
focused on strengthening measures for border management. At the same time, UNHCR and civil
society organisations underlined that the right to asylum and access to territories should be
The debate continued over which authority is respons ible for search and rescue operations and
identifying countries which will share the responsibility more evenly with states at the frontline of
disembarkations. Deliberations on disembarkations and receiving states further increase t he time
migrants spend at sea and increase the risks of their journey.306
In an effort to address irregular migration flows, a new security decree was adopted by the Council of
Ministers in Italy in June 2019, which significantly slowed down search and rescue operations in the
Central Mediterranean (IT LEG 01). According to the decree, boats suspected of facilitating irregular
migration may be refused entry into Italian ports, and boats violating the ban could face substantial
fines and be seized by the authorities. 307 At the end of June 2019, the Sea Watch vessel entered
Lampedusa port against the ban, and the ECtHR did not grant interim measures which would have
EASO Asylum Report 2020
allowed disembarkation in Italy.308 The captain of the ship was arrested for docking without
authorisation, but the Italian court later cleared all charges.309
The Sea Watch 3 case is not unique. The FRA Fundamental Rights Report 2020 lists 28 incidents in
2019 when vessels were kept at the sea for longer than 24 hours, including 8 instances when boats
needed to wait more than a week.310
The European Commission recognised the need for a more structured temporary solution311 and
began to coordinate action to ensure safe disembarkation and rapid relocation of rescued migrants.
On 23 September 2019, the Ministers of France, Germany, Italy and Malta met in the presence of the
Commission and the Finnish EU Presidency to agree on a predictable and structured approach to
disembarkations and relocation. The proposal was discussed in Oc tober at the JHA Council and the
European Commission launched the process to develop Standard Operating Procedures based on the
declaration, encouraging Member States to sign on.312
As mentioned in the progress report on the European Agenda on Migration, the European
Commission, with the assistance of EASO, coordinated ad hoc relocations from disembarkations in
Italy and Malta throughout 2019 upon requests from Member States. The 14 cases up to October 2019
involved 1 187 pledges from Member States (including, for example, Germany, Finland, France,
Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain) and 368 relocated migrants.313
The Italian authorities noted that applicants waiting for ad hoc relocation, who are accommodated in
different facilities in Italy, typically remain there for a substantial period of time due to lengthy
interview processes and organisation of transfers. To address challenges with relocation, ECRE
published recommendations for a mechanism which is based on a fair and effective implementation
of existing EU rules, without adding new obligations for Member States.314
While some countries may receive a higher number of disembarkations due to geographical location,
migrants arrive by boat to other Member States as well. For example, Cyprus generally received
relatives of Syrians who have been granted subsidiary protection, possibly because this sta tus in the
country does not allow for family reunification.315
Access by land
A               
without the possibility to apply for international protection. As a measure to control land borders
more tightly, several Member States have temporarily reintroduced controls at internal Schengen
Nonetheless, as in previous years, international organisations and civil society organisations continued
to report on pushbacks at sea and land borders, in particular along the Evros River at the Greek-Turkish
border.317 Indeed, the Greek Council for Refugees filed several complaints throughout 2019, including
a report to the Prosecutor of the Supreme Court.318 As the situation continued to escalate, several
thousands of people arr ived at the Turkish side of the Greek border at the end of February 2020
attempting to enter Greek territory, but they were denied access.319
The Spanish- Moroccan border at Ceuta and Melilla was also an area which received attention for
limiting access to protection. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child condemned the pushbacks
of unaccompanied minors, and other international and civil society organisations also reported on the
same issue.320 However, the ECtHR Grand Chamber judgement in N.D. and N.T. v Spain, delivered in
early 2020, found that Spain did offer legal entry into the country but the applicants acted unlawfully
by attempting to cross in a group of 600 people. Furthermore, it ruled that their immediate return

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