EU Dublin Regulation assessment shows continued shortcomings

In February 2020, the most recent European Implementation Assessment titled “Dublin Regulation on international protection applications study” revealed many weaknesses in the current Dublin Regulation. The study, established by the European Parliamentary Research Services (EPRS) together with the research team of the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), shows that the original aim of the Dublin Regulation is not being achieved. Moreover, it appears that the costs of its implementations are significant given that its objectives are not being met. The Dublin Regulation, among other things, determines which EU member state is responsible for the assessment of an asylum claim. The assessment of the Dublin Regulation accompanies the implementation report on the Dublin Regulation of November 2019 that was published by the European Parliament. 

The weaknesses

The European Commission published one study on the evaluation of the Regulation in 2015 and another on its implementation by member states in 2016. The next evaluation of the Dublin Regulation was planned in 2018 but has not yet been produced. In addition to the official Commission evaluations, a number of other actors, such as the European Parliament, have published studies about the Regulation. The European Implementation Assessment is the most recent of such studies. Since the evaluation in 2015 until now, weaknesses were described within the Dublin Regulation; recent evaluations show that rather than improving, these weaknesses have increased. 

The European Implementation Assessments study highlights the weaknesses in different phases:

First, in the pre-arrival stage, there are almost no legal pathways to the EU, which often lead to reliance on smugglers. Research shows that additionally, it leads to criminalisation of refugees and increased vulnerability to human trafficking.

Secondly, when migrants arrive in the EU there is a disproportionate level of responsibility for certain member states and the applicant’s right to information is often not realised. Reception capacities in the EU vary considerably, which may be due to the fact that member states have significant discretion to organise the asylum procedures at national level. 

Thirdly, during the application stage, the levels of support for applicants differ, the length of procedures varies significantly as there are shortages in administrative capacity, and approval rates vary from one member state to another. Moreover, the criteria for determining the state of responsibility are not used in the specified order and the situation of unaccompanied children remains a matter of concern during the process. 

Finally, during the the post-application phase there is a lack of continuity of positive asylum decisions across the EU and there are different standards of socio-economic support across member states. There are many obstacles to accessing the labour market. There is limited execution of return decisions and a lack of monitoring mechanisms on returns. There are still large information gaps that need to be filled such as information about failed transfers, the appeal processes and detention.

The aim  of the Dublin Regulation

The Dublin Regulation was created to assure fair access for migrants and refugees to an asylum procedure in a single member state and to determine which member state is responsible for examining an asylum request. Furthermore, the system requires that asylum seekers are given equal rights and that each claim gets a fair examination. From the various evaluations of the Dublin Regulation, it is clear that this is not achieved and moreover, the level of guarantee for asylum seekers’ rights is far from satisfactory. The efficiency of the system is undermined by the length of procedures, the lack of implementation of transfer decisions and the lack of compliance with human rights.

New migration package

The Dublin Regulation II became a key component of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) in 2003, replacing the first Dublin Convention of 1990. Dublin Regulation III has been in force since 2013. The humanitarian crisis of 2015 led to an increase in arrivals of migrants in the European Union, putting a strain on many member states’ asylum systems and on the CEAS as a whole. 

The relevance of the Dublin Regulation in its current form is questioned by the European Parliament and many NGOs. Since the start of the humanitarian crisis which peaked in 2015, the EU has revised the EU’s asylum rules in an attempt to establish a system that is fair and able to manage any future challenges in migratory pressure. On February 20, however, EUobserver reported on the possibility that the European Commission will retract the 2016 reform proposal for the Dublin Regulation. This would signal a shift away from reform towards changing the migration procedures. This is in line with the announcement of Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission President, to establish a new migration package for the EU.