Faculty of law blogs / UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Book Review: Seeking Asylum in the European Union



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4 Minutes

Guest post by Catherine Briddick, Graduate Reading for a DPhil in Law and Teaching Assistant at the Refugee Studies Centre, University of Oxford. You can follow her on Twitter @CateBriddick.  

Review of Seeking Asylum in the European Union: Selected Protection Issues Raised by the Second Phase of the Common European Asylum System, edited by Céline Bauloz, Meltem Ineli-Ciger, and Sarah Singer (Brill/Nijhoff Publishers, June 2015).

It’s evident that the authors of Seeking Asylum in the European Union are engaged in a timely enterprise. Europe’s migration ‘crisis’, or crisis of refugee protection, continues as this week the International Rescue Committee has expressed concern about the numbers of children who are travelling alone to seek protection in Europe. The recovery of what appears to be a Syrian passport at the site of one of the terrorist incidents in Paris bearing the name of someone who apparently travelled through Greece in early October has been seized on by those who oppose the resettlement of Syrian refugees and who seek to (further) reduce access to asylum. At the same time, a recent paper from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights examines measures authorities can take to enforce the obligation of newly arrived asylum-seekers and migrants to provide fingerprints for inclusion in Eurodac, the database of fingerprints set up by the EU to facilitate the Dublin system, a mechanism which determines which Member State is responsible for determining an asylum-seeker’s application for refugee status and which enables the ‘transfer’ of asylum-seekers between Member States. A review of ‘selected protection issues’ raised by the second phase of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) promises, therefore, to be a good read.

The editors of this volume state that their purpose is to focus on specific protection issues raised by the second phase of the CEAS which haven’t been addressed in other studies, providing critical analyses of problems which they believe scholars and policy-makers, amongst others, will have to address. The book divides these ‘selected protection issues’ into three thematic areas: procedural guarantees and reception conditions; qualification of persons in need of protection; and missed opportunities and problematic developments.

The first contribution to the volume, by Emma Borland, argues that the ‘cross pollination’ of legal orders in Europe ‘creates a fertile ground for the growth of a rights’ based approach’ (p. 56) to asylum determination, one consequence of which is the potential to challenge the position (adopted by the European Court of Human Rights and maintained in the UK) that fair trial guarantees don’t apply to asylum determination procedures. In the third chapter, Vladislava Stoyanova seeks to examine and potentially reconcile the conflicting legal regimes that victims of trafficking seeking protection in EU find themselves. The forth chapter by Julian Lehmann engages in an analysis of the standard of protection applied in cases of persecution from non-state actors, whilst Stephanie Motz examines the persecution of disabled persons and the duty of reasonable accommodation in her analysis of international refugee law, the re-cast Qualification Directive, and the ECHR. The section on persons in need of protection is concluded by Matthew Scott’s chapter on refuge from climate change-related harm. The book concludes with two engaging chapters which are highly relevant to current ‘debates’ on asylum, as Meltem Ineli-Ciger asks whether the Temporary Protection Directive has become obsolete, whilst the recasting of the Eurodac regulation is examined by Niovi Vavoula who questions whether asylum-seekers are being treated as suspected criminals.

There is much in Seeking Asylum in the European Union for students, practitioners and scholars of migration law to engage with and enjoy. To take just two examples, Lehmann’s chapter on the different approaches taken to assessing protection from harm from non-state actors in an asylum-seeker’s country of origin, which compares jurisprudence from the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, has profound implications for the ‘harmonisation’ of the EU law and for those who hope that the ‘improvements’ made in the second phase of the CEAS will yield benefits for asylum-seekers. The position of asylum-seekers with disabilities is an under-researched and under-theorised area of refugee law, a lacuna that Motz’s contribution, which considers jurisprudence from four common law jurisdictions on violations of the duty of reasonable accommodation as persecution, goes a long way to addressing.

I would have liked to have read more from the book’s editors on how they had conceived of the project and selected the areas of law or contributions that they present. It’s clear that the editors and contributors have identified aspects of the CEAS that have gone unaddressed, such as the implications for asylum-seekers of opening up Eurodac to national law enforcement bodies. However, they don’t fully explain why this might be the case or set out what they want to achieve in bringing these particular issues to the fore in their analysis of the CEAS. The lack of analysis of the position of those with disabilities, or the protection standards applied in cases where an asylum-seeker flees persecution from a non-state actor (an issue which disproportionately effects women) which this volume seeks to redress, reveals as much about the gaps in current refugee law scholarship as it does about the failures of the CEAS itself. In terms of the individual contributions made to the volume, ultimately I found those chapters which didn’t seek to ‘solve’ particular problems with the CEAS to be the most persuasive. Given the complexity and intractability of some of the issues considered in this book, it’s enough that the contributors are able to subject them to rigorous critique and contestation.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style):

Briddick, C. (2016) Book Review: Seeking Asylum in the European Union. Available at: https://www.law.ox.ac.uk/research-subject-groups/centre-criminology/centreborder-criminologies/blog/2015/11/book-review-0 (Accessed [date]).

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