A new reform proposal of the Dublin Regulation
Adrien, a young Congolese, was staying in a Jesuit community in Toulouse, as part of the Welcome Programme of the Jesuit Refugee Service in France. Through this programme, asylum seekers such as Adrien receive support from families and religious communities, facilitating a path of integration. One day, as he had to do regularly, he reported to the police station. To his surprise, he was arrested and sent back to Italy - his first European country of entry- and was put into custody at a detention centre. He is still being held there after sixteen months, without news about his future.
Towards Dublin IV
This story illustrates very clearly some of the most important shortcomings of the asylum system in Europe and, more specifically, of the Dublin Regulation. The entry gate to the European Asylum system is the Dublin Regulation, now in its third version; it establishes which State is responsible for examining the applications of the new arrivals.
It is precisely this condition, that the first country of entry is the one fully responsible for the entire procedure which has provoked desperate agglomerations or has produced secondary movements, seeking other alternatives. For this reason, the European Commission launched in 2016 a reform proposal of the Dublin Regulation (to become the IVth version).
The Commission's proposal was based on the relocation of refugees throughout the different countries of the Union, breaking with the Dublin III model. The European Parliament has been even more ambitious by establishing solidarity between states as the cornerstone of the new procedure. The parliamentary proposal, whose rapporteur was Cecilia Wikström, was passed on 6 November 2017.
A permanent relocation mechanism
The main characteristic of the proposal approved by the European Parliament is the setting up of a permanent and automatic relocation mechanism, without thresholds. The relocation system thus replaces the previous “fall-back-criterion” of the member state of first entry. The system applies at all times, not only in periods of crisis and with no thresholds. Other important elements of the proposal are: the definition of the appropriate procedures in the first Member States of arrival to speed up the process of relocation and a clear contribution from the EU-budget and the EU Asylum Agency (EUAA) to meet the costs of this relocation. The calculation of fair responsibility is based on the GDP and population of the receiving state.
As long as the applicant has registered in the first member state of entry in the Union, he or she will be given the option to choose between the four member states which have received the lowest number of applicants in relation to their fair share. Refugees have to know, very precisely, that the only path to international protection within Europe will be to remain in the responsible member state. This is the most effective way to tackle secondary movements. The proposal looks to encourage applicants to remain within the official system.
A common asylum space
What is crucial for this proposal to succeed, and this is more controversial politically, is to ensure the full participation of all Member States. Frontline member states that refuse to register applicants would see the relocation of applicants from their territory stopover. Member states refusing to accept relocation of applicants to their territory would face limits on their access to EU-funds and would not be able to use EU-funds for the return of applicants that had their asylum claims rejected.
The proposal seeks to define a common asylum space, which is opposed by the positions of some member States very reluctant to receive refugees or migrants. They support the idea that the aid should take place in the same countries of origin, or in the neighbouring countries, but not anywhere within the European Union. This frontal opposition to the relocation mechanism by some member States is the main stumbling block in the dialogue at the Council of Ministers of the EU. The objection concerning the right of the asylum seekers to choose freely the destination of their preference is balanced in the procedure by paying attention to already existing real links (family, previous residence…), facilitating family reunification or allowing groups of up to 30 people to apply together because of special bonds, for example, the same region of origin. All these elements are intended to facilitate the process and to avoid secondary movements.
While relocation inside the EU has strong moral grounds because of sharing responsibility, recent experience (inefficient bureaucracy that makes the process endless, increasing difficulties for family reunification and lack of sufficient protection of minors…), shows that we have to be cautious with the proposal but we acknowledge its positive ambition to turn the EU into a common space of protection.
José Ignacio García SJ
Regional director, Jesuit Refugee Service Europe
The views expressed in europeinfos are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the position of COMECE and the Jesuit European Social Centre.