Several EU member states are struggling to meet the needs of asylum seekers because they are burdened with too much individual responsibility to handle the recent influxes.
The current Common European Asylum System (CEAS) is not consistent with the Dublin Regulation, an EU law that determines the EU member state responsible for examining asylum applications, and needs a major legal overhaul for its members’ optional requirements. The proposed European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA) should be able to legally enforce Dublin Regulation policies and impose Northern European members’ obligations towards its goals of managing influxes of asylum seekers.
In May 2010, the European Parliament and EU Council passed Regulation No. 439/1010 establishing a European Asylum Support Office to implement the CEAS. The CEAS was originally designed to “strengthen political cooperation among the EU’s Member States on asylum,” and “coordinate operational support for asylum reception.” In June 2013, the EU passed the Dublin Regulation with Regulation No. 604/2013, establishing criteria and mechanisms for determining which members are responsible for managing asylum applications. The CEAS does not require the EU’s members to act, but instead describes the Support Office’s operation. According to Recital 15 of the CEAS’s Preamble, an EU member state may make requests to the Support Office, however, the Support Office primarily provides services rather than acts as a governing body.
However, both the Support Office and the Dublin System remain criticized for unfairly distributing asylum seekers. Thomas Spijkerboer, a migration law professor at the Vrije Universiteit Amersterdam, argues that Greece and Italy would be saddled with the clear majority of refugees while northern EU members, like Sweden, would not be burdened, for geographical reasons. Furthermore, asylum seekers are significantly more likely to face homelessness and discrimination under the Dublin system.
Some European leaders, like German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, however, prefer the Dublin system because it allows nations to return refugees to the European nation where they originally sought asylum. Nations like Italy and Greece burden nations like Germany and Sweden by taking asylum seekers who then travel onward. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that asylum seekers could not be returned to Greece due to low standards of living; however, Maiziere argues that the EU’s financial support to Greece eliminates this concern. The Dublin Regulations are often left unenforced by members, leaving the EU “defenseless in the face of obstruction.”
Last April, the European Commission proposed a new regulation to repeal and replace the CEAS with the EUAA. Article 2 of the EUAA contains many similar provisions to the CEAS Support Office regarding its supportive tasks, but unlike the CEAS, its Article 6 requires support for the Dublin Regulations. Furthermore, unlike the CEAS, Article 19 of the EUAA provides a more detailed operational plans for host nations to determine support distributions and technical assistance to asylum seekers.
The Support Office’s goals are too important to eliminate, but EU members cannot be expected to support one another, unless required to do so. Northern European nations did not support Italy and Greece’s pleas to reform the Dublin system when the Mediterranean nations were taking the bulk of refugees, such nations cannot be expected to assist the Support Office. Regardless, the Support Office’s services cannot be optional for EU members, otherwise asylum seekers will continue to overwhelm Mediterranean nations.
Articles 21, 22, 26, and 27 of the Dublin Regulation, however, oblige EU members to receive and reply to take-charge requests, transfer the refugee, provide international safeguards to the refugee, and provide the refugee the opportunity to seek a remedy if they are rejected for asylum. These regulations are important, but mean nothing if EU members do not enforce them. Germany and various other Northern European EU Member States highlight that there are many problems and benefits for them in implementing the Dublin Regulations, but simply allowing the choice to implement its policies does not enforce any policy. The Support Office and the Dublin Regulation simply do not give enough of a remedy to enforce its policies.
The EUAA, however, will legally resolve the Support Office and Dublin Regulation’s issues if it passes. Since the EUAA requires support for the Dublin Regulation, nations wishing to participate in supportive programs under the EUAA will be required to comply with its guidelines and measures. Furthermore, its operational plans will ensure that members receiving larger influxes of asylum seekers are better supported financially by other members, rather than simply being left out to dry.
As a result, the CEAS and Dublin Regulation’s intended goals are legally enforced through the EUAA rather than their respective laws. The EU should pass this resolution if it wants to continue improving its intake of asylum seekers.