February 18th was the tenth anniversary of the Dublin II Convention, that is, the EU regulation which identified which state is responsible for determining asylum. It allows a state to return a refugee applicant to another EU country with which they have a connection, no matter how tenuous and regardless of their reason for applying for asylum in Ireland.
A European Comparative Report has been published entitled, ‘Dublin II Regulation; Lives on Hold’. It is described as a response to significant developments in the area within which the Dublin Convention applies; in 2011, seminal judgments from both the European Court of Human Rights and the Court of Justice of the EU changed the legal framework within this landscape. EU institutions have also recently reached a political agreement on a redraft Dublin ‘III’ Regulation, which maintains the underlying principles of the Dublin system, whilst introducing substantive reforms to the Dublin system, aiming to increase efficiency whilst respecting the fundamental rights of those subject to it. This was a necessary report; comprehensive information on the technical application of the Dublin II Regulation in a large number of Member States has not been gathered since 2006 – very alarming in consideration of the fact that this is a constantly developing area of law.
The Report questions the reasoning behind the Dublin regulations, a system perceived as frequently failing to achieve its objective of identifying a Member State responsible for the examination of an asylum claim. It finds that a harmonised application of the Dublin Regulation is not realistic; there are vast disparities between the methods of application of the binding criteria within Member States. Asylum seekers under the procedure are often subject to less than adequate reception conditions in Member States frequently resorting to the use of detention to secure Dublin transfers. Cooperation between member States is inconsistent, leading to lengthy delays in identifying a responsible Member State, or even no Member State, leading to a situation of ‘asylum seekers in orbit’. Readmission agreements are sometimes implemented by Member States in a manner that results in evading obligations under the Dublin Regulation and under international human rights law, most notably the fundamental right to asylum.
Improvements in the application of the Dublin Regulation alone will not suffice; as long as there is an ‘asylum lottery’ in Europe, the system will continue to create hardship for asylum seekers. The report calls for a harmonised application of EU protection standards, which meet international and regional protection obligations. The Report asserts that the solution ultimately lies in replacing the Dublin Regulation with an alternative system that ensures genuine responsibility sharing and takes into account meaningful connections between asylum seekers and Member States.
For access to the report: