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Report for the European Parliament’s LIBE committee co-authored by Dr Cathryn Costello


This new report, co-authored by Dr Cathryn Costello, is the outcome of a study requested by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee that examines why the Dublin system of allocation of responsibility for asylum seekers does not work effectively, from the viewpoint both of Member States and of asylum-seekers. The Dublin system has been the ‘cornerstone’ of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), despite being unfit for its intended purpose. Judicial decisions have highlighted that the system violates fundamental rights in several respects, yet the tendency is towards its ever more coercive application.

This study urges a fundamental rethink. It argues that as long as the Dublin system is based on the use of coercion against asylum seekers, it cannot serve as an effective tool to address existing imbalances in the allocation of responsibilities among Member States.

The EU is faced with two substantial challenges: first, how to prevent unsafe journeys and risks to the lives of people seeking international protection in the EU; and secondly, how to organise the distribution of related responsibilities and costs among the Member States. This study addresses these issues with recommendations aimed at resolving current practical, legal and policy problems.

The study concludes that creating legal and safe avenues to access protection in the EU is essential, to avoid life-threatening journeys and deaths in transit. Safe access would also diminish the burden on coastal Member States for search and rescue, reception, and processing of claims.

A range of options to ensure safe access should be adopted, including humanitarian evacuation programmes; humanitarian visas; increased resettlement and humanitarian admission; and more extensive use of existing migration visas for family reunification, work, study or research. For nationalities in greatest need of refuge, visa requirements and/or carrier sanctions could be suspended to permit safe arrival.

The private sector’s role should be encouraged, both regarding search and rescue at sea, and concerning post-arrival arrangements, including private sponsorship schemes for resettlement.

Support from other Member States and the EU to reception/first reception facilities in frontline Member States could improve conditions at some external borders, including Italy and Greece.

Dublin should be replaced with a non-coercive, solidarity-based, fundamental rights-compliant system of responsibility allocation for asylum claims. Financial support, properly focused and monitored, can encourage and support Member States to meet their obligations, and incentivize assumption of responsibility.

In addition, irrespective of whether Dublin is maintained or replaced, a system of mutual recognition of positive asylum decisions should be adopted. This would open up free movement rights, allowing beneficiaries of international protection to join family and support networks or accept job offers that maximise opportunities for integration. At the same time, if maintained, Dublin should be applied in line with already existing obligations, guaranteeing fundamental rights and minimising coercion.

The report is co-authored by Professor Elspeth Guild (Centre for European Policy Studies, Radboud University Nijmegen and Queen Mary, University of London); Professor Cathryn Costello (RSC); Madeline Garlick (Radboud University Nijmegen); and Dr Violeta Moreno-Lax (Queen Mary, University of London and Refugee Law Initiative, University of London). Dr Sergio Carrera (Centre for European Policy Studies) also participated in the creation of the report. 

Full report available here >>

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