By David Brunnstrom
BRUSSELS - The European Commission said on Monday it would propose tightening rules on minimum standards for treatment of asylum-seekers, saying existing EU regulations were being applied haphazardly.
Asylum requests to EU states have fallen consistently in the recent years, but national differences in policy have led to so-called "asylum shopping" by refugees who target those countries seen as likely more warmly at application.
The EU executive found in a report that seven EU states -- Britain, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Luxembourg and Cyprus -- were not applying minimum EU standards laid down in 2003 legislation to detention centres used for asylum-seekers.
Austria did not apply it to transit zones, while a number of states were not complying with a requirement for them to issue asylum-seekers with a document stating their name and status within three days of applying for asylum.
Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said in a statement he would make proposals next year to tighten rules "with regard to the level and form of material reception conditions, access to employment, health care, free movement rights and identification of care of vulnerable persons".
The report found variations in accommodation provided to asylum-seekers and that the financial allowances provided in Cyprus, France, Estonia, Austria, Portugal and Slovenia were often too low to cover subsistence.
"The amounts are only very rarely commensurate with the minimum social support guaranteed to nationals and even when they are, they might still not be sufficient, as asylum-seekers lack family and/or other informal kinds of support," it said.
The report said one of the main deficiencies in application of the directive had been in addressing the needs of vulnerable asylum seekers, including minors who have been victims of abuse, neglect or exploitation.
It said no specific legal provisions had been adopted in Estonia, France, Hungary, Luxembourg and Latvia to cover minors with special needs and said serious problems could arise in countries that did not exclude the detention of such minors.
"Detention of vulnerable asylum-seekers should be considered only as a last resort," it said.