Council of Europe – ‘Dublin’ undermining refugee rights and burdening Malta

Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner Thomas Hammarberg says EU asylum procedures still flawed and Dublin Regulation ‘dysfunctional’.

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, has called for the harmonisation of asylum laws in Europe and to “overhaul the dysfunctional so-called Dublin Regulation within the EU.”

Under the Dublin system, the responsibility for examining asylum applications is shouldered by the EU border states, through which most asylum seekers enter.

“This has not been successful in practice. Countries such as Greece and Malta have, during recent years, been unable to provide adequate protection because the numbers of asylum seekers have exceeded their capacity. This is simply not fair and has, in extreme cases, even put lives at risk. It is now high time to revise the Dublin Regulation,” Hammarberg said.

The regulation is not designed to guarantee that the responsibility for asylum seekers is shared among the EU member states. “Nor does it ensure that asylum seekers have access to adequate asylum procedures. It is based on the false assumption that the national asylum systems in place in Europe all provide similar, high standards of protection to people who seek to escape from violence and persecution.”

Hammarberg said the gravely dysfunctional asylum procedures in Greece have brought the Dublin system to a genuine collapse, and lessons must be drawn from this breakdown.

“EU states need to halt all transfers of asylum seekers back to countries where they face enormous difficulties in gaining access to the asylum procedure and where they do not enjoy basic safeguards such as interpretation and legal aid…

“States in northern Europe, far from the borders in the south and the east, have so far not been co-operative in discussions about resolving this mess. In fact, they have not even been willing to use the possibility under the ‘sovereignty clause’ of the present regulation to avoid transfers to Greece, whose asylum system is clearly experiencing a total collapse.”

The European Commission has suggested that it should be possible to suspend transfers and give states under particular strain short-term relief from their responsibilities under the Dublin Regulation.

Europe as a whole is not overburdened by asylum applications, at least not in comparison with other parts of the world: last year, South Africa alone received almost as many asylum requests as all 27 EU members put together.

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