The EU will have to solve “the Dublin puzzle”

In Italy the Minister of the interior Matteo Salvini, the radical populist, monopolized the attention with their almost daily attacks on immigrants. A German colleague Salvini – Horst Seehofer – has provoked a crisis in the ruling coalition, demanding to adopt new measures against those asylum-seekers who are trying to get to Germany from Austria.

Salvini and Seehofer argued that since their countries no one is helping in the fight against illegal immigration, they should focus on national, not European solutions. But, as he writes in his article on Project Syndicate, the Director of the Centre for European policy studies Daniel Gros, they are greatly mistaken.

“In fact, the EU has played a huge role in reducing the flow of irregular migration, which has significantly decreased compared to 2015, when via Greece and Hungary in droves arrived Syrian refugees. Thanks to the agreement reached between the EU and Turkey in March 2016, is now only a few cross the sea to get to Greece. And the number arriving in Italy of refugees is extremely small in comparison with the previous year. In General, the number of cases of illegal crossing of borders of EU countries dropped to about 100 thousand per year, while in 2015, according to estimates, the EU came thus over a million people.

Since the population of the EU is over 500 million people, such a figure looks absolutely manageable. But politicians continue to exploit the issue of migration, with thanks to some particularly significant cases (especially due to the large number of migrants rescued off the coast of Libya) this theme constantly appears in the news.

However, the real problem to be solved is: which country should be responsible for those who have already arrived on the territory of the EU. The inability of the EU to answer this question so that satisfied all parties, is threatening the existence of the Schengen area with its free crossing of the borders of its member countries.

On paper the EU has clear rules on this. According to the so-called Dublin regulation, the first EU country in which he / she is an asylum seeker, is responsible for the consideration of its application. Countries at the external borders of the EU, such as Greece and Italy, of course, complain that this rule imposes on them an unfair burden.

But asylum seekers also resist compliance with this rule. Given the adverse labour market situation in the southern border countries, many immediately tend to get in Northern Europe to apply for asylum. That is why Germany, which has no external borders, receives more applications for asylum than Italy. Many of those who submit these statements has already been registered in the database of the EU on refugees EURODAC.

According to the Dublin regulation, Germany has the right to ask other EU countries to “take responsibility” (a legal term) in such cases. But the rule of the first country of entry there are many exceptions. For example, if the asylum seeker has family members already living in another country (e.g. Germany), then it was this other country may be responsible for processing the application. Or, if the asylum-seeker cannot leave the country for a period of more than three months, then the original statement may be withdrawn, and in another EU country filed new.

All these exceptions give asylum-seekers sufficient opportunity to challenge in court the transfer of cases to other countries under the Dublin regulation. In addition, national authorities have strong incentives to oppose the incoming requests for the referral of cases for formal or real evidence that they are trying to send to other countries as many people as possible. In 2017, the received 160 million requests for the transfer of responsibility, but only 20 thousand of them actually satisfied. These factors, together with differences in legal systems and administrative procedures in different EU countries, in fact, nullify the action of the Dublin regulation.

These realities underlie the current controversy within the coalition government of Germany. Of more than 60 thousand requests for transfer of responsibility submitted by the German authorities in 2017 in accordance with the Dublin regulation, less than 15% were actually granted in other EU countries were transferred only 7100 cases.

At the same time in 2016, Germany has granted nearly 30% of the 27 thousands of incoming requests it has received, and it means that she took responsibility for approximately 8,700 people. Thus, despite the absence of external borders, Germany began to take more people within the framework of the Dublin transfers than it sends to other countries.

That is why Seehofer wants to prevent asylum seekers that have already been registered in the EURODAC system other countries to enter Germany. But he is not alone in his dissatisfaction because of the discrepancy between legal principles and reality is no country in the EU is not satisfied with the current system. Border countries continue to insist that the Dublin regulation is unfair to them, and the Northern EU countries complain that the rules are not observed properly.

The asylum system in which the national bureaucracy of a dozen-odd countries trying to give each other asylum-seekers like a hot potato, can’t work normally. The European support office for refugees (EASO) should be responsible for interpreting the rules in the distribution of the refugees, solving, for example, which country is responsible in those cases when between them there are disagreements about specific cases. Providing financial incentives for accepting refugees, such as the allocation of lump-sum amount for each of them, can also be useful.

These two measures will not satisfy the populists. The struggle of refugees and migrants (and their demonization, as well as those who support them) is for populist political bread and butter. But the strengthening of EASO and increased financial support will partially mitigate the current controversy, at least as long as there is no developed program of radical reform of the asylum system in Europe.”

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