Lives on Hold: The Dublin Regulation is failing asylum seekers and EU Member States

by zoejardiniere

01.02.13 ECRE, Forum Réfugiés – Cosi and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, along with their national partners in the European Network for Technical Cooperation on the Application of the Dublin II Regulation held a conference yesterday at the European Parliament, hosted by the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), where the findings of their study, ‘The Dublin II Regulation: Lives on Hold’ were presented.
The study’s findings show vast divergences in the way EU Member States apply the Regulation. Contrary to the purported objective of this system, asylum seekers who find themselves within it are not always guaranteed a full and fair examination of their asylum claim.
The research found that sometimes the presence of family members in the territory of Member States is not taken into account, which leads to many families being separated. It also shows that Member States apply the Dublin Regulation in such a way that the majority of transfers are based on the first State of irregular entry into the EU.
There is also insufficient use of the ‘Humanitarian Clause’, which allows a State to take over responsibility for an asylum claim made on its territory in order to bring together family members or for related humanitarian reasons.
The study raises concerns that asylum seekers in the Dublin procedure are frequently treated as a secondary category of persons subject to fewer entitlements in terms of reception conditions. Those in the Dublin procedure are often the first affected if there are reception capacity problems and are sometimes penalized by reductions in the social support they receive compared to other asylum seekers.
MEP Cecilia Wikström, the rapporteur for the recast of the Dublin Regulation, highlighted some significant improvements that have been made in the new text, such as the establishment of an Early Warning and Preparedness Mechanism, and the clarification of the circumstances in-which detention may be used. Wikström conceded that in the difficult negotiations of the recast, “We aimed for the moon, and we reached the tops of the trees.”
In the first round-table discussions – The Dublin system: challenges and solidarity – MEPs Kyriakos Triantafillides and Dennis De Jong pointed out inherent flaws in the premise of the Dublin system and advocated a move towards alternative measures, such as joint processing of asylum claims and intra-EU relocation schemes. MEP Timothy Kirkhope argued that the Commission must be much more active in calling to account Member States who fail to uphold minimum human rights guarantees in their national asylum systems. Matthias Oel, Head of the Asylum Unit of the European Commission, emphasised that once Dublin III is adopted, the new Regulation should be translated into coherent implementation on the ground.
In the second round-table discussions – The Dublin system and Member States obligations – Francesco Maiani of the Swiss Graduate School of public Administration (IDHEAP) stressed that the courts are often responsible for breathing a more humanitarian spirit into ambiguous legal provisions. Philip Amaral of the Jesuit Refugee Service in Europe (JRS) argued that in any other sector, such a poorly performing instrument as the Dublin Regulation would have been scrapped; the political motivations that make Member States so keen on maintaining the system should not obscure the fact that it obstructs both the protection of the human rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and their longer-term integration prospects in the EU.
Michael Diedring, Secretary General of ECRE gave the closing remarks of the conference, in which he concluded that, “the Dublin system is an obstacle to genuine solidarity in Europe as well as a system that infringes the fundamental rights of asylum seekers.” He called for the review of the Regulation’s position as a ‘cornerstone’ of the Common European Asylum System and urged participants to continue to build a European Union where asylum seekers will be treated uniformly with human dignity.
The full comparative report along with national reports will be published in mid-February. The European Network for Technical Cooperation on the Application of the Dublin II Regulation has also developed a
ECRE Weekly Bulletin – 01 February 2013
training module for practitioners, information brochures in several languages explaining the Dublin system and a database of jurisprudence relating to the Regulation. For further information:
 European Network for Technical Cooperation on the Application of the Dublin II Regulation, Dublin Project website