Towards a long-term resident status for refugees and people under international protection

New rules adopted by the Commission on civil liberties should give refugees the same rights as nationals of third countries long-term residents, including freedom of movement and, under certain conditions, equal treatment with nationals of the EU in a wide range of economic and social areas. Refugees and other persons enjoying international protection may therefore have the status of long-term resident in the EU.

This legislation, which amends an EU directive of 2003, will bring “direct benefit to all the beneficiaries of international protection who have been residing legally on the territory of the EU for more than 5 years, but currently have no entitlement to long-term resident status. It will bring an end to their differential treatment vis-à-vis other third country nationals, and will give them greater certainty about their situation in the EU”, said Civil Liberties Committee rapporteur Claude Moraes (S&D, UK), who is steering the legislation through Parliament.

Under Council Directive 2003/109/EC, which governs the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents, refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are not currently entitled to long-term resident status. The amended directive would close this gap.

The new rules would enable beneficiaries of international protection who become long-term residents to take up residence in a Member State other than that in which they are recognised. Under certain conditions, they would enjoy equality of treatment with citizens of the EU Member State in which they reside in a wide range of economic and social areas, including education and access to the labour market and social security benefits. Furthermore, the new rules also strengthen safeguards against “refoulement” (expulsion).

This agreement will be put to a vote by the full Parliament at its December plenary session, in Strasbourg. Member States will have two years to comply with the new rules. The UK, Ireland and Denmark are opting out of this directive.

Committee vote: 27 in favour, none against, no abstentions

In the chair: Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES)

Definitions

“International protection” covers both refugee status under the Geneva Convention and subsidiary protection status.

“Refugee” means a third country national who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside the country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or a stateless person, who, being outside the country of former habitual residence for the same reasons as mentioned above, is unable or, owing to such fear, unwilling to return to it. “Refugee status” means the recognition by a Member State of a third country national or a stateless person as a refugee.

“Person eligible for subsidiary protection” means a third country national or a stateless person who does not qualify as a refugee but in respect of whom substantial grounds have been shown for believing that the person concerned, if returned to his or her country of origin, or in the case of a stateless person, to his or her country of former habitual residence, would face a real risk of suffering serious harm and is unable, or, owing to such risk, unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country. “Subsidiary protection status” means the recognition by a Member State of a third country national or a stateless person as a person eligible for subsidiary protection.

“Refoulement” - the key component of refugee status and of asylum is protection against return to a country where a person has reason to fear persecution and danger. This protection is sometimes referred to as the “non-refoulement” principle.

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