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Living conditions for asylum seekers – EU rules

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Living conditions for asylum seekers – EU rules



Directive 2013/33/EU on standards for the reception of applicants for international protection


  • It creates European Union (EU) rules on living (or ‘reception’) conditions for applicants for international protection* (asylum seekers or people seeking subsidiary protection*) who are waiting for their application to be examined. These rules should help prevent people from moving on to different countries because of variations in living conditions.
  • It aims to guarantee a dignified standard of living for asylum seekers in the EU and ensure their human rights are respected.


Who is affected?

The directive applies to applicants for international protection and their families, including:

  • spouses and unmarried partners
  • their children under 18
  • other family members (e.g. the applicant’s mother or father if the applicant is under 18).

Standard EU-wide reception conditions

The directive aims to harmonise reception conditions throughout the EU. These conditions include:

  • access to housing,
  • food, clothing,
  • financial allowances,
  • a decent standard of living, and
  • medical and psychological care.

Other guarantees

Apart from the basic reception conditions, EU countries must ensure that applicants can access:

  • employment within 9 months,
  • education for children under 18.

Vulnerable people

  • An individual assessment must be made in order to assess the needs of vulnerable people (children, disabled people or victims of abuse).
  • Specific rules apply to children, unaccompanied children and victims of torture and violence.
  • Vulnerable asylum seekers must have access to psychological care.
  • When unaccompanied children apply for asylum, they should be given a qualified representative to help them. The best interests of children and of family unity should always be the first consideration.

Detaining asylum seekers

Applicants should not be detained just because they are seeking international protection. Detention should be a last resort, decided on a case-by-case basis.

An exhaustive list of detention grounds has been adopted, to avoid arbitrary detention.

The directive also:

  • limits detention periods,
  • restricts the detention of vulnerable people, especially children,
  • offers legal guarantees (e.g. access to free legal assistance, information in writing when appealing a detention order),
  • introduces specific reception conditions for detention facilities, such as access to open-air spaces and contact with lawyers, non-governmental organisations and family members.

Directive 2013/33/EU repeals Directive 2003/9/EC with effect from 21 July 2015.


It applies from 19 July 2013. EU countries had to incorporate it into national law by 21 July 2015.


The EU has been working towards the creation of a common European asylum system (CEAS). Since 2013, a series of new legal texts have been adopted to improve the workings of the CEAS.


International protection: refugee status or subsidiary protection status.

Subsidiary protection status: may be granted to non-EU nationals or stateless people who do not qualify for refugee status but who would be at risk of serious harm if they returned to their country of origin.


Directive 2013/33/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 laying down standards for the reception of applicants for international protection (OJ L 180, 29.6.2013, pp. 96-116)


Council Directive 2003/9/EC of 27 January 2003 laying down minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers (OJ L 31, 6.2.2003, pp. 18–25)

last update 31.10.2016