In the years 2007 and beyond, when the European Commission was preparing the reform of the Dublin II Regulation, which determines the country responsible for asylum applications and the procedures for returning asylum seekers to the responsible country, the impasse of a system which most often turns the country of entry ( into the space of the signatory countries of the European Union plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland) into traps, and leads to the wandering of asylum seekers from country to country across Europe.

Substantive reform was desired by the countries of southern Europe – the countries of entry, which were responsible for the majority of asylum applications. But it was blocked by the countries of northern Europe, who found it advantageous to escape their duty of reception by being able to return part of the people seeking asylum to the countries of entry.


The reform thus resulted in a grooming of the Dublin II Regulation, including a multiplicity of discretionary clauses, which States could or could not apply, and in a more or less discretionary way. Some measures were regressive, such as the possibility to lock in asylum applications, others provided for flexibility in terms of family reunification for minors and vulnerable persons.

The European Commission is currently preparing a reform of the Dublin III Regulation. Paradoxically, in relation to the findings made in advance of the Dublin II reform, it is a matter of rigidification of the rule of the country of entry, accompanied by a mechanism which is intended to compensate for the “burden” that  asylum seekers represent for the countries of arrival. It consists of a distribution based on the supposed capacity of host countries according to their populations and economy, when a certain threshold is crossed in the country of entry. It does not take into account the choices made by the applicants, nor does it take into account their real possibilities of integration in a given country nor its actual reception policies.

The elements of rigidification of the Dublin system are mainly:

  • The limitation of the sovereignty clause, which allows a State to treat an application for asylum even when another member state is solely responsible for situations of family reunification. This clause made it possible to both resolve complex situations of wandering and to take into account the fact that some states do not respect or respect poorly the right of asylum or offer little or no opportunities for integration. Return to the responsible country, usually the country of entry, will therefore become mandatory.
  • The abolition of the time limit beyond which a state that does not return to the country of entry becomes itself responsible for the asylum application (after six months in the most frequent case). This clause made it possible to ensure that, in the end, any asylum application would be taken into account, its abolition would mean that asylum-seekers who did not return to the responsible country as their rights are not respected there, but who are not deported, would be unable to have their asylum claims examined anywhere.
  • The obligation to return to a third country considered safe at the time the person crossed it and is deemed to have been able to apply for asylum there. Countries such as Turkey, Serbia, Ukraine, Morocco, to which asylum-seekers would be sent back to as soon as the European Commission considers them safe.
  • The possibility of returning minors to a country where they have already applied for asylum, whereas today every state has to deal with the asylum application of a minor.
  • A restriction, accompanied by sanctions, on the possibility of the movement of asylum-seekers and refugees in the European area.
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    Perhaps the decision of the French government to increase deportations under the Dublin III regulation has to be linked, beyond the pre-electoral bidding, to the prospect of this reform which provides for the strengthening of the principle of the first country of entry’s responsability and for the development of external countries to become responsible for asylum applications.

You can download the European Commission document on the reform of the Dublin III regulation here.

You can download the analysis of the association Pro Asyl here

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Dublin IV, or European asylum “Pinball” worsened

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