contents table
Qualification Directive



of 13 December 2011

on standards for the qualification of third-country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted



  • Having regard to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, and in particular points (a) and (b) of Article 78(2) thereof,
  • Having regard to the proposal from the European Commission,
  • Having regard to the opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee(1),
  • Acting in accordance with the ordinary legislative procedure(2),


  1. A number of substantive changes are to be made to Council Directive 2004/83/EC of 29 April 2004 on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted(3). In the interests of clarity, that Directive should be recast.
  2. A common policy on asylum, including a Common European Asylum System, is a constituent part of the European Union’s objective of progressively establishing an area of freedom, security and justice open to those who, forced by circumstances, legitimately seek protection in the Union.
  3. The European Council at its special meeting in Tampere on 15 and 16 October 1999 agreed to work towards establishing a Common European Asylum System, based on the full and inclusive application of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 relating to the Status of Refugees (the Geneva Convention), as supplemented by the New York Protocol of 31 January 1967 (the Protocol), thus affirming the principle of non-refoulement and ensuring that nobody is sent back to persecution.
  4. The Geneva Convention and the Protocol provide the cornerstone of the international legal regime for the protection of refugees.
  5. The Tampere conclusions provide that a Common European Asylum System should include, in the short term, the approximation of rules on the recognition of refugees and the content of refugee status.
  6. The Tampere conclusions also provide that rules regarding refugee status should be complemented by measures on subsidiary forms of protection, offering an appropriate status to any person in need of such protection.
  7. The first phase in the creation of a Common European Asylum System has now been achieved. The European Council of 4 November 2004 adopted the Hague Programme, which sets the objectives to be implemented in the area of freedom, security and justice in the period 2005-2010. In this respect, the Hague Programme invited the European Commission to conclude the evaluation of the first-phase legal instruments and to submit the second-phase instruments and measures to the European Parliament and the Council, with a view to their adoption before the end of 2010.
  8. In the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, adopted on 15 and 16 October 2008, the European Council noted that considerable disparities remain between one Member State and another concerning the grant of protection and the forms that protection takes and called for new initiatives to complete the establishment of a Common European Asylum System, provided for in the Hague Programme, and thus to offer a higher degree of protection.
  9. In the Stockholm Programme, the European Council reiterated its commitment to the objective of establishing a common area of protection and solidarity, based on a common asylum procedure and a uniform status, in accordance with Article 78 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), for those granted international protection, by 2012 at the latest.
  10. In the light of the results of the evaluations undertaken, it is appropriate, at this stage, to confirm the principles underlying Directive 2004/83/EC as well as to seek to achieve a higher level of approximation of the rules on the recognition and content of international protection on the basis of higher standards.
  11. The resources of the European Refugee Fund and of the European Asylum Support Office should be mobilised to provide adequate support to Member States’ efforts in implementing the standards set in the second phase of the Common European Asylum System, in particular to those Member States which are faced with specific and disproportionate pressure on their asylum systems, due in particular to their geographical or demographic situation.
  12. The main objective of this Directive is, on the one hand, to ensure that Member States apply common criteria for the identification of persons genuinely in need of international protection, and, on the other hand, to ensure that a minimum level of benefits is available for those persons in all Member States.
  13. The approximation of rules on the recognition and content of refugee and subsidiary protection status should help to limit the secondary movement of applicants for international protection between Member States, where such movement is purely caused by differences in legal frameworks.
  14. Member States should have the power to introduce or maintain more favourable provisions than the standards laid down in this Directive for third-country nationals or stateless persons who request international protection from a Member State, where such a request is understood to be on the grounds that the person concerned is either a refugee within the meaning of Article 1(A) of the Geneva Convention, or a person eligible for subsidiary protection.
  15. Those third-country nationals or stateless persons who are allowed to remain in the territories of the Member States for reasons not due to a need for international protection but on a discretionary basis on compassionate or humanitarian grounds fall outside the scope of this Directive.
  16. This Directive respects the fundamental rights and observes the principles recognised in particular by the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. In particular this Directive seeks to ensure full respect for human dignity and the right to asylum of applicants for asylum and their accompanying family members and to promote the application of Articles 1, 7, 11, 14, 15, 16, 18, 21, 24, 34 and 35 of that Charter, and should therefore be implemented accordingly.
  17. With respect to the treatment of persons falling within the scope of this Directive, Member States are bound by obligations under instruments of international law to which they are party, including in particular those that prohibit discrimination.
  18. The best interests of the child should be a primary consideration of Member States when implementing this Directive, in line with the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In assessing the best interests of the child, Member States should in particular take due account of the principle of family unity, the minor’s well-being and social development, safety and security considerations and the views of the minor in accordance with his or her age and maturity.
  19. It is necessary to broaden the notion of family members, taking into account the different particular circumstances of dependency and the special attention to be paid to the best interests of the child.
  20. This Directive is without prejudice to the Protocol on asylum for nationals of Member States of the European Union as annexed to the Treaty on European Union (TEU) and the TFEU.
  21. The recognition of refugee status is a declaratory act.
  22. Consultations with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees may provide valuable guidance for Member States when determining refugee status according to Article 1 of the Geneva Convention.
  23. Standards for the definition and content of refugee status should be laid down to guide the competent national bodies of Member States in the application of the Geneva Convention.
  24. It is necessary to introduce common criteria for recognising applicants for asylum as refugees within the meaning of Article 1 of the Geneva Convention.
  25. In particular, it is necessary to introduce common concepts of protection needs arising sur place, sources of harm and protection, internal protection and persecution, including the reasons for persecution.
  26. Protection can be provided, where they are willing and able to offer protection, either by the State or by parties or organisations, including international organisations, meeting the conditions set out in this Directive, which control a region or a larger area within the territory of the State. Such protection should be effective and of a non-temporary nature.
  27. Internal protection against persecution or serious harm should be effectively available to the applicant in a part of the country of origin where he or she can safely and legally travel to, gain admittance to and can reasonably be expected to settle. Where the State or agents of the State are the actors of persecution or serious harm, there should be a presumption that effective protection is not available to the applicant. When the applicant is an unaccompanied minor, the availability of appropriate care and custodial arrangements, which are in the best interest of the unaccompanied minor, should form part of the assessment as to whether that protection is effectively available.
  28. It is necessary, when assessing applications from minors for international protection, that Member States should have regard to child-specific forms of persecution.
  29. One of the conditions for qualification for refugee status within the meaning of Article 1(A) of the Geneva Convention is the existence of a causal link between the reasons for persecution, namely race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, and the acts of persecution or the absence of protection against such acts.
  30. It is equally necessary to introduce a common concept of the persecution ground membership of a particular social group. For the purposes of defining a particular social group, issues arising from an applicant’s gender, including gender identity and sexual orientation, which may be related to certain legal traditions and customs, resulting in for example genital mutilation, forced sterilisation or forced abortion, should be given due consideration in so far as they are related to the applicant’s well-founded fear of persecution.
  31. Acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations are set out in the Preamble and Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter of the United Nations and are, amongst others, embodied in the United Nations resolutions relating to measures combating terrorism, which declare that acts, methods and practices of terrorism are contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and that knowingly financing, planning and inciting terrorist acts are also contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations.
  32. As referred to in Article 14, status can also include refugee status.
  33. Standards for the definition and content of subsidiary protection status should also be laid down. Subsidiary protection should be complementary and additional to the refugee protection enshrined in the Geneva Convention.
  34. It is necessary to introduce common criteria on the basis of which applicants for international protection are to be recognised as eligible for subsidiary protection. Those criteria should be drawn from international obligations under human rights instruments and practices existing in Member States.
  35. Risks to which a population of a country or a section of the population is generally exposed do normally not create in themselves an individual threat which would qualify as serious harm.
  36. Family members, merely due to their relation to the refugee, will normally be vulnerable to acts of persecution in such a manner that could be the basis for refugee status.
  37. The notion of national security and public order also covers cases in which a third-country national belongs to an association which supports international terrorism or supports such an association.
  38. When deciding on entitlements to the benefits included in this Directive, Member States should take due account of the best interests of the child, as well as of the particular circumstances of the dependency on the beneficiary of international protection of close relatives who are already present in the Member State and who are not family members of that beneficiary. In exceptional circumstances, where the close relative of the beneficiary of international protection is a married minor but not accompanied by his or her spouse, the best interests of the minor may be seen to lie with his or her original family.
  39. While responding to the call of the Stockholm Programme for the establishment of a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and with the exception of derogations which are necessary and objectively justified, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status should be granted the same rights and benefits as those enjoyed by refugees under this Directive, and should be subject to the same conditions of eligibility.
  40. Within the limits set out by international obligations, Member States may lay down that the granting of benefits with regard to access to employment, social welfare, healthcare and access to integration facilities requires the prior issue of a residence permit.
  41. In order to enhance the effective exercise of the rights and benefits laid down in this Directive by beneficiaries of international protection, it is necessary to take into account their specific needs and the particular integration challenges with which they are confronted. Such taking into account should normally not result in a more favourable treatment than that provided to their own nationals, without prejudice to the possibility for Member States to introduce or retain more favourable standards.
  42. In that context, efforts should be made in particular to address the problems which prevent beneficiaries of international protection from having effective access to employment-related educational opportunities and vocational training, inter alia, relating to financial constraints.
  43. This Directive does not apply to financial benefits from the Member States which are granted to promote education.
  44. Special measures need to be considered with a view to effectively addressing the practical difficulties encountered by beneficiaries of international protection concerning the authentication of their foreign diplomas, certificates or other evidence of formal qualifications, in particular due to the lack of documentary evidence and their inability to meet the costs related to the recognition procedures.
  45. Especially to avoid social hardship, it is appropriate to provide beneficiaries of international protection with adequate social welfare and means of subsistence, without discrimination in the context of social assistance. With regard to social assistance, the modalities and detail of the provision of core benefits to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection status should be determined by national law. The possibility of limiting such assistance to core benefits is to be understood as covering at least minimum income support, assistance in the case of illness, or pregnancy, and parental assistance, in so far as those benefits are granted to nationals under national law.
  46. Access to healthcare, including both physical and mental healthcare, should be ensured to beneficiaries of international protection.
  47. The specific needs and particularities of the situation of beneficiaries of refugee status and of subsidiary protection status should be taken into account, as far as possible, in the integration programmes provided to them including, where appropriate, language training and the provision of information concerning individual rights and obligations relating to their protection status in the Member State concerned.
  48. The implementation of this Directive should be evaluated at regular intervals, taking into consideration in particular the evolution of the international obligations of Member States regarding non-refoulement, the evolution of the labour markets in the Member States as well as the development of common basic principles for integration.
  49. Since the objectives of this Directive, namely to establish standards for the granting of international protection to third-country nationals and stateless persons by Member States, for a uniform status for refugees or for persons eligible for subsidiary protection, and for the content of the protection granted, cannot be sufficiently achieved by the Member States and can therefore, by reason of the scale and effects of this Directive, be better achieved at Union level, the Union may adopt measures, in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity as set out in Article 5 of the TEU. In accordance with the principle of proportionality, as set out in that Article, this Directive does not go beyond what is necessary in order to achieve those objectives.
  50. In accordance with Articles 1, 2 and Article 4a(1) of the Protocol (No 21) on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the Area of Freedom, Security and Justice, annexed to the TEU and to the TFEU, and without prejudice to Article 4 of that Protocol, the United Kingdom and Ireland are not taking part in the adoption of this Directive and are not bound by it or subject to its application.
  51. In accordance with Articles 1 and 2 of the Protocol (No 22) on the position of Denmark, annexed to the TEU and to the TFEU, Denmark is not taking part in the adoption of this Directive and is not bound by it or subject to its application.
  52. The obligation to transpose this Directive into national law should be confined to those provisions which represent a substantive change as compared with Directive 2004/83/EC. The obligation to transpose the provisions which are unchanged arises under that Directive.
  53. This Directive should be without prejudice to the obligations of the Member States relating to the time limit for transposition into national law of Directive 2004/83/EC set out in Annex I, Part B,