This Directive entered into force on 6 February 2003 and applies to all EU Member States except Ireland and Denmark. Ireland is not participating in the adoption of the Directive pursuant to the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty establishing the European Community by the Treaty of Amsterdam. Member States were required to ensure domestic legislation complied with the Directive from 6 February 2005.
The Directive sets out minimum standards of reception conditions for applicants for asylum in Member States in order to ensure that they will have a dignified standard of living, and to afford them comparable living conditions in all Member States. The Directive also seeks to limit secondary movements of asylum seekers who would otherwise be influenced by the variety of reception conditions in the Member States. Reception conditions are defined in the Directive as the full set of measures that Member States grant to asylum seekers in accordance with the Directive. Member States can apply more favourable standards than those provided by the Directive.
The Directive provides asylum seekers with certain rights, including the right to information about benefits and the obligations with which they must comply relating to the reception conditions, the right to documentation certifying their status as an asylum seeker, the right to freedom of movement within the territory of the host Member State or “within an area assigned to them by the Member State”, the right to maintain family unity, the right of minors to education, the (conditional) right to access to the labour market, the right to conditions sufficient to ensure a standard of living adequate for the health of applicants and capable of ensuring their subsistence, and the right to emergency health care and essential treatment of illness.
The Directive stipulates the conditions when reception conditions may be reduced or withdrawn, including in cases where an applicant abandons his residence without informing the authorities, for reason of non-compliance in the asylum determination process, where an asylum application has not been lodged as soon as reasonably practicable after arrival, and in situations of violent behaviour. It further provides for the possibility of special provisions for persons with special needs, such as unaccompanied minors, and victims of torture and violence. The Directive provides a right of appeal in case of a negative decision relating to the granting of benefits.