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Temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons

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Temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons

The European Union (EU) adopts legislation laying down standards common to all Member States for giving temporary protection to persons fleeing their countries in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons in the Union.


Council Directive 2001/55/EC of 20 July 2001 on minimum standards for giving temporary protection in the event of a mass influx of displaced persons and on measures promoting a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving such persons and bearing the consequences thereof.


This Directive puts in place an exceptional scheme to deal with possible cases of mass arrivals in the European Union (EU) of foreign nationals who cannot return to their countries, in particular due to a war, violence or human rights violations. The legislation puts in place immediate temporary protection for these displaced persons and promotes a balance of efforts between Member States in receiving them and bearing the consequences of such reception.

Denmark is not participating in the Directive.

Implementation of temporary protection

Temporary protection is implemented in all Member States when the Council adopts, following a Commission proposal, a decision establishing a mass influx of displaced persons in the EU and stating the groups of persons to whom the protection applies.

The duration of temporary protection shall be one year and may be extended by a maximum of two years. It may also come to an end if the Council considers, following a Commission proposal, that the situation in the country of origin is such as to permit the safe and durable return of the displaced persons.

Member States must ensure that displaced persons are willing to be received onto their territory.

The following may be excluded from temporary protection: persons suspected of crimes against peace, war crimes, crimes against humanity, serious non-political crimes, acts contrary to the purposes and principles of the United Nations, and persons regarded as a danger to the security of the host Member State.

Effects of temporary protection

Member States must grant persons enjoying temporary protection a residence permit which is valid for the entire duration of the protection. If appropriate, displaced persons shall be provided with facilities for obtaining the necessary visas with minimum formalities and cost.

Persons enjoying temporary protection shall be granted:

  • the right to engage in employed or self-employed activities, and in educational opportunities for adults, vocational training and practical workplace experience;
  • the right to have access to suitable accommodation;
  • the right to receive necessary assistance in terms of social welfare and means of subsistence if they do not have sufficient resources, as well as medical care;
  • the right for children under 18 years of age to access the education system under the same conditions as nationals of the host Member State.

Members of the same family who have been separated and enjoy temporary protection in different Member States, or those where some family members are not yet on EU territory, must benefit from family reunification in the same Member State.

Unaccompanied minors shall be placed with adult relatives, with a foster-family, in reception centres for minors, or with the person who looked after them when fleeing their country of origin. They shall be represented by a guardian or by an association.

Persons enjoying temporary protection must be able to lodge an application for asylum. The Member State which has received the person shall be responsible for examining the application. However, States may decide that a person enjoying temporary protection cannot have the status of asylum seeker at the same time. This enables countries to lighten the load on their asylum systems during temporary protection by postponing the examination of applications.

Unless Member States decide otherwise, a person enjoying temporary protection and staying without authorisation on the territory of another Member State must be taken back by the Member State which granted them protection.

Termination of temporary protection

Upon expiry of temporary protection or during protection, Member States shall take the necessary measures to make possible the voluntary return of persons enjoying protection.

In the event of an enforced return, they shall also ensure that the return takes place with due respect for human dignity and that compelling humanitarian reasons do not make return impossible.

Persons who cannot travel in view of their state of health must not be the subject of an enforced return so long as their health does not improve. Families whose children are minors and attend school may be authorised to stay until the end of the school year.

Administrative cooperation

The measures laid down by the Directive shall benefit from the European Refugee Fund. If the number of displaced persons exceeds the reception capacity indicated by Member States, the Council shall take appropriate measures, in particular by recommending additional support for Member States affected.



Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Official Journal

Directive 2001/55/EC



L 212, 7.8.2001

Last updated: 14.02.2012