Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Commissioner in call for common EU asylum policy

Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström told MEPs on 15 February 2011 that a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on treatment of asylum seekers showed the need for a common EU asylum policy.

In January 2011 the ECHR fined Belgium and Greece over their treatment of an Afghan asylum seeker.

Belgium sent the Afghan man, identified only as "MSS", back to Greece because it was his entry point into the EU.

But he ended up homeless, struggling in dire poverty in 2009.

The ruling challenges the so-called Dublin II Regulation, used by many EU countries to send asylum seekers back to the first point of entry, despite countries such as Greece having a growing backlog of cases.

Commissioner Malmström said there needed to be a common standard of protection for the return of migrants.

Asylum 'ping pong'

The UK and Sweden have already stopped doing so because of the poor conditions that many migrants face in Greece, and Commissioner Malmström admitted that the country "lacked a properly functioning national asylum system".

The ECHR ordered Belgium to pay MSS €32,250 (£27,227; $43,408) in damages and costs, and Greece to pay him €5,725.

The judgement by the court's grand chamber is binding and cannot be appealed.

During the debate, Greek social democrat MEP Stavros Lambrinidis accused member states of being in a "ping pong" over asylum issues and highlighted the fact that 90% of all asylum seekers were initially received by Greece.

He said the EU could not go on claiming that it was a specific Greek problem, saying "our borders are borders for all of us".

Read Democracy Live's guide to how the plenary sessions work here.

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