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23rd Feb 2020

EU asylum law to include 'distribution key'

  • Over 800,000 people seeking international protection arrived in Greece last year (Photo: iom.int)

In a matter of weeks, the European Commission will propose to unravel a decades old key asylum law known as the Dublin regulation.

But its replacement is likely to upset some member states.

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  • The Greek route replaced the Libya-Italy route as the main EU entry point (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

On Thursday (14 January), EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos announced the revamp would be based on a distribution key system.

The system would allocate "quasi-automatically" asylum applicants to member states.

It is a big departure from the current Dublin rule.

Today, Dublin says the country through which asylum seekers first entered the EU have to handle applications for asylum on behalf of all other member states.

The distinction is likely to be removed when the commission unveils its new proposal in March.

Avramopoulos told MEPs in the civil liberties committee that "Dublin should not be any more just a mechanism to allocate responsibility."

He said it needs to be "a solidarity instrument among member states".

That includes "the need to have a distribution key system under which applicants would be quasi-automatically allocated to a member state".

First signed as a convention in 1990, Dublin wasn't implemented until 1997. It was then adopted as a regulation in 2003 and then commonly referred to as Dublin II.

But it never worked in practice.

The latest iteration, known as Dublin III, was then proposed in December 2008. The EU co-legislatures took fives year before it became law.

But Dublin III hasn't really worked either.

If applied correctly, Greece and Italy would have had to handle the bulk of the some 1 million arrivals last year.

Those slipping through the registration process and caught in another member state would then have to be returned - although returns to Greece have been banned since 2010 due to poor holding conditions.

Over 800,000 people arrived in Greece alone in 2015.

Another 18,384 have landed in Greece from the start of the new year. The majority, almost half, are Syrian refugees, followed by Afghans and Iraqis.

Earlier this week, Dutch migration minister Klaas Dijkhoff said the 25-year old system had been doomed to fail from the start.

Imposing distribution keys on how to divvy up asylum seekers has been met in the recent past with strong resistance from some member states.

It is not yet clear whether the Dublin revamp will make migrant distribution binding or voluntary.

Binding quotas created an uproar when the EU commission unveiled its relocation plan last May, one month after some 600 people drowned in the Mediterranean Sea, just south of Italy's Lampedusa island.

The May proposal required each member state to take in a pre-defined number of asylum seekers from Italy and Greece.

It didn't get far. By June, EU leaders made it voluntary and then signed it off in September.

The relocation plan has failed to deliver.

Fewer than 300 people, out of the planned 160,000, have been relocated so far.

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