The European Union has reignited the discussion of scrapping the highly criticised Dublin Regulation, the policy that requires refugees to apply and claim asylum in the first European country they set foot in.
The huge number of migrants that have overwhelmed mainland Europe has made the Dublin Regulation virtually impossible to enforce and placed a political and economic strain on such countries as Greece and Italy. Germany has taken in around one million asylum seekers effectively bypassing the Dublin Regulation entirely and sounding the regulations death knell.
Proposals to replace the Dublin Regulation are expected to be put forward by the European Commission in March.
The UK are strongly against the scrapping of the Dublin Agreement and recently rejected the applications of four young Syrian men who fled Syria and arrived in France in September 2015 and found themselves in the Calais migrant camp known as “The Jungle” Three of the four applicants are teenagers, one of whom is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder another cares for his twenty-six-year-old brother, (the fourth applicant) who has mental health problems.
The Home Office rejected the applications of these four Syrians under the Dublin Regulations that would only allow an asylum seeker in Calais to join their family in Britain if they had already applied for asylum in France.
Lawyers for the four, successfully challenged the decision in a Judicial Review arguing that the Dublin Regulations are not working and that the refugees are entitled to a family life under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights. Consequently, they should immediately be brought to Britain to join their families and their asylum applications processed here. The court heard all the men have been traumatised and the squalid conditions at the camp were aggravating their health problems.
Mr Justice McCloskey, the president of the Immigration Tribunal, and Judge Mark Ockelton, the vice-president, ruled unanimously in favour of the Syrians and no “stay” has been issued on the court order, meaning the four Syrians could be allowed to travel to the UK at the earliest opportunity. A full court judgement is expected to be published in the coming week.
The case of the four Syrians is just another nail in the coffin of the Dublin Agreement.
There are no details at present as to what might replace the Regulation, but if and when the principle of return to first country of entry comes to an end, will come as a major relief to Italy and Greece, who had around 200,000 and 800,000 entrants respectively in 2015. It will also be a considerable relief to those who wanted to claim asylum in Europe, but did not necessarily want to be destitute on the streets of Rome, Athens or in the Calais “Jungle” camp. Challenges to the lawfulness of removal to Italy, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Malta, France and Cyprus are ongoing in UK courts.
However, it is now clear that for whatever reason the Dublin Regulation has failed, whatever replaces it must be fair to Member States and fair to the people risking their lives to escape persecution.