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The possibility of burden-sharing in the distribution of responsibility for processing asylum claims across the European Union (EU) seems to come up against a blockage when weighed against the principles and institutional practice underlying the Dublin system, the EU mechanism laying down the criteria determining the Member State responsible for processing an asylum claim. Understanding that blockage invites one to critically engage with the reasons why Member States have been reluctant to question Dublin as a policy option throughout the evolution of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). This paper explores this question by evaluating the Dublin system as a carrier of embedded interests which make it less likely for Member States to allocate processing responsibility on the basis of burden-sharing. It examines the Dublin system’s objectives, and its appropriateness in delivering them, under three tenets: deflection, efficiency and control. The paper submits that the mechanism’s peculiar interpretation of processing responsibility accounts for its failure to deflect asylum claims by creating incentives for defection from the allocation criteria, as well as by prompting courts to halt transfers to external border Member States intended to receive the bulk of applications. The efficiency objectives of rapid processing of asylum claims and prevention of multiple applications and ‘asylum shopping’ are also not appropriately met, as the Dublin system causes significant delays in the processing of applications and provides asylum seekers with incentives to engage in irregular secondary movement. This built-in failure seems to reveal the symbolic objective of asserting control over entrants in their territory as the primary interest behind Member States’ support for Dublin.

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Working paper


Refugee Studies Centre

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