Hilde Vautmans and Cecilia Wikström about the Dublin regulation (De Morgen 07/03)
For too long, the EU has based its asylum system on ad hoc solutions that have been neither fair nor functioning. Now the EU must take the chance to create a new system, which is based on the responsibility of all member, states, not just a few.
The current asylum system has not been fit to handle the large amounts of asylum seekers that have arrived in the EU the past years. In 2015, when 1 million people fled war and conflict and applied for international protection in the EU, the system, which had never really worked, collapsed.
The so-called Dublin regulation requires all asylum seekers to register in the first EU country that they arrive to. As almost all refugees arrived by boat in external border countries in southern EU, like Greece and Italy, the responsibility to accommodate everyone that arrived in these countries was simply impossible. As a result, many asylum seekers were not properly registered in these countries and they simply made their way towards member states further north. We all remember the pictures of refugees on European roads. Pictures, we have not seen since the Second World War.
Under the current system, a country that registers a potential applicant for asylum is very likely to become responsible for the application. As a result, country after country waved through asylum seekers that wanted to move on and because of this other countries responded by re-introducing internal border controls.
The EU commission launched its response to the crisis with a new asylum package in 2016. Today, we are happy to present proposals to improve the commission proposals.
Since the launch we have carefully analysed the situation, including the non-functioning temporary relocation scheme, and seen that EU now finds itself at a crossroad. Continuing with a dysfunctional system that guarantees neither an acceptable situation for refugees or the control and security of member states would likely end up resulting in the collapse of free movement of people in Europe as more and more Member States re-impose internal border controls. The alternative is to fundamentally reform the asylum system to allow Member States to regain control of the situation.
Our conclusion is that the EU now needs a fundamental reform to its asylum system, which should be built around three key principles:
- All member states must share responsibility for receiving asylum seekers according to a formula based on GDP and population.
- Member states with external borders - such as Greece and Italy - must take their responsibility for registering all arriving asylum seekers as well as protecting the european external border. Of course, this requires the EU to provide sufficient help and support.
- Asylum applications must be handled much faster than today, so that those in need for international protection can quickly adapt to a new life in the EU, but also so that those that do not need protection can be returned in a dignified and swift manner.
Asylum seekers must be confident that they will get a fair process and decent conditions in all EU member states, but they must also understand that it is not up to them to decide in which member state that they will apply.
The current system has mainly benefitted human traffickers who smuggle asylum seekers through Europe. This is not worthy of our Union, and we deserve solutions which guarantee security and health for refugees on their first day arriving in the EU and appropriate controls by our authorities.
A system of fairer sharing of the responsibility will take some time to put in place. It is also fair to ensure that member states that do not historically have as much experience with receiving asylum seekers get some time to adapt to the new rules. A reformed European asylum system also needs to work in any future scenario. It needs to work also for example if there is a major refugee crisis on the eastern borders.
We are confident that with clear principles as a base, we can put in place a fair and well-functioning asylum system where we regain control of our external borders whilst upholding international responsibilities to protect those in need of protection.
Cecilia Wikström, (The Liberal Party of Sweden/ALDE)