Asylum is a fundamental right

Granting asylum to people fleeing persecution, war or other serious harm in their home countries is an international obligation, which was first recognised in the 1951 Geneva Convention on the protection of refugees.1

The Geneva Conventions form the core of international humanitarian law, which regulates the conduct of armed conflict and seeks to limit its effects.2 The Geneva Refugee Convention is the key legal document defining who is a refugee and who is not, the rights of refugees and the legal obligations of States to protect them.3 Read the convention on the UNHCR website.

Challenges of granting asylum in Europe

Asylum flows are not constant or evenly distributed. Nevertheless all member states of the European Union have a shared responsibility to grant fair treatment and common laws which apply regardless of the specific country an asylum seeker applies for.4

The European Union, which is an area of open borders and which consists of countries sharing the same values, aims at establishing a joint approach to guarantee high standards of protection for refugees. Otherwise, the abolition of internal borders would most likely result in a secondary EU-internal movement of refugees, choosing their final destination out of personal reasons or because they assume it might offer the most generous asylum policies.5

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The abolition of EU-internal borders is the outcome of the so called Schengen Agreement. It defines the European Union as an area without internal borders, where citizens, many non-EU nationals, business people and tourists can freely move around without being subjected to border checks. Today almost all EU States and a few associated non-EU countries belong to this so called Schengen-Area. At the same time this agreement resulted in a tightened control of external borders.6

With this in mind, the EU States have decided to develop the Common European Asylum System.7