Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration - Edition 2020

The European Convention on Human Rights and European Union law provide an increasingly important framework for the protection of the rights of foreigners. European Union legislation relating to asylum, borders and immigration is developing fast. There is an impressive body of case law by the European Court of Human Rights relating in particular to Articles 3, 5, 8 and 13 of the ECHR. The Court of Justice of the European Union is increasingly asked to pronounce on the interpretation of European Union law provisions in this field. The third edition of this handbook, updated up to July 2020, presents this European Union legislation and the body of case law by the two European courts in an accessible way.

It is intended for legal practitioners, judges, prosecutors, immigration officials and non-governmental organisations, in the EU and Council of Europe Member States.

Since 2011, the European Union (EU) Agency for Fundamental Rights, the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, have published handbooks on various fields of European law. This handbook provides an overview of the European legal standards relevant to asylum, borders and immigration, explaining both applicable Council of Europe and EU measures.

The handbook is intended for lawyers, judges, prosecutors, border guards, immigration officials and others working with national authorities, as well as national human rights institutions, non-governmental organisations and other bodies that may be confronted with legal questions in the areas covered.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU became legally binding when the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in December 2009. It has the same legal value as the founding EU Treaties. The Lisbon Treaty also provides for EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights, which is legally binding on all Member States of the EU and the Council of Europe.

Since we published the second edition of this handbook in 2014, there have been significant developments in European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration. For example, a number of adopted EU instruments upgrade or establish new large-scale EU information technology systems to manage migration. There have also been smaller legislative changes – for instance, in the Schengen acquis on borders, irregular migration and visas.

Similarly, the Court of Justice of the EU has clarified several legal questions emerging from the implementation of EU migration and asylum law in its ever-expanding case law. The European Court of Human Rights has also delivered a number of important judgments, notably in the area of reception conditions of asylum seekers. In light of such changes, the handbook required an update to ensure that its legal guidance remains accurate.


Since the UK’s withdrawal from the EU as of 1 February 2020, British nationals are now third-country nationals.

After the transition period expired at the end of 2020, legal relations between the EU and the United Kingdom are governed, as of 1 January 2021, by the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement and its Protocols thereto.

The new arrangements set out the conditions for British nationals – who are exempt from visa requirement for short-term stays under Regulation (EU) 2019/592 – to work in, travel or move to the EU, paired with provisions on social security coordination.

The new treaty rules provide an additional basis for bilateral law enforcement cooperation to continue between the UK and the EU, including information-sharing on wanted and missing persons.

A Joint Political Declaration on Asylum and Returns notes the importance of good migration management and recognises the special circumstances arising from border controls and other complex travel arrangements. To this end, the UK intends to bilaterally negotiate with the most concerned EU Member States to reach practical arrangements on asylum, family reunion for unaccompanied children and irregular migration.