The EU institutions are discussing the definition of the safe third country concept, which has been part of EU
asylum law since the adoption of the 2005 Asylum Procedures Directive and features prominently in the European
Commission’s (EC's) proposals for the reform of the asylum acquis. Instigated by the European Council’s call for
an alignment of the concept “with the effective requirements arising from the Geneva Convention and EU primary
law, while respecting the competences of the EU and the Member States under the Treaties”, some EU Member
States (EUMS) have floated far-reaching proposals to lower the currently applicable standards, going below the
already questionable proposals submitted by the EC.
Current debates epitomise EUMS' insistence on concepts that undermine access to protection in the EU within an
overall strategy of containment of refugees in other regions. The safe third country concept is seen as the ‘silver
bullet’ that will reduce pressure on EUMS’ asylum systems by deterring applicants and allowing for expedited
examination and then deflection of asylum claims.
ECRE warns against the erosion of key principles underlying the international protection regime through the
mandatory application of an unduly broad or even flexible definition of the safe third country concept in contrast
to existing higher standards applicable in a number of EU Member States. Such an approach will limit refugees’
effective access to international protection in the EU. It will also undermine global efforts to increase solidarity in
refugee protection and has major political implications for the EU’s relations with other countries.