The European Union (EU) looks set to ditch the Dublin Regulation, the rule requiring the first member state a migrant enters to be responsible for any asylum claim. The revolutionary reform of EU migration policy will shift the burden of the ongoing migrant crisis from southern states to the wealthier northern ones like Britain.
Central to the EU’s asylum system, the ‘first-country’ requirement collapsed into chaos last year when Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel unilaterally waived her country’s right to send Syrian migrants back to other EU member states. This, and later attempts to contain her policy, triggered scenes of anarchy at borders across the continent.
The Financial Times describes the requirement as “politically toxic for EU leaders” as countries such as Greece and Italy came under attack from northern countries for failing to process the 1.1 million migrants that came to Europe from the Middle East and North Africa. The overwhelming majority of the recent migrant influx arrived in southern Europe but headed north to wealthier countries with more generous benefits systems.
Britain and other northern European states benefit from the current arrangement as they can transfer asylum-seekers back to other EU states, although in 2013 only 16,000 intra-European transfers out of 76,000 requested were actually completed. The UK does enjoy a wider opt-out on EU migration policy, but has specifically opted into the Dublin Regulation to take advantage of the transfer rules.
As a result the European Commission has concluded the Dublin Regulation is both “outdated” and “unfair” and will propose its abolition in March. In doing so countries like Britain will be forced to accept many more migrants, since it would become harder to send them back to neighbouring countries for processing as refugees.
The free-for-all the move could prompt would also increase pressure on reluctant member states to meet one of Brussels other policy aims, that of introducing a common asylum policy, uniform procedures, and a formal quota system based on criteria such as GDP and population size to spread the migrant burden throughout the EU.
Stepping up the pressure to accept reform of the Dublin Regulation, European Council president Donald Tusk yesterday warned that the EU had “no more than two months to get things under control” or face “grave consequences”.