One Step Further Dublin but We Still Have a Long Way to Go

Marco Magnano - Riforma

One Step Further Dublin but We Still Have a Long Way to Go

After the affirmative vote by the European Parliament, the proposal on reforming the Dublin System can be seen in the European Council. However, there are real risks that the proposal will never be implemented.

On November 16, four years after the last reform of the Dublin regulation, the European Parliament began mandating on the fourth version of a regulatory framework whose limits are increasingly evident. The 390 votes in favour and the 175 against with 44 abstentions, marked a further step after the approval of the proposal within the Libe - Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

The reform, submitted by Swedish MEP Cecilia Wikström, of the Liberal group Alde, was supported by the whole left-wing of the parliament as well as by Liberals, Green Liberals and People's Party while it has been opposed by the Central-Eastern Europe government parties and the Eurosceptic movements, as well as the 5-Star Movement. « It has been a long negotiation which lasted a year and a half with 22 negotiating meetings, a large number of meetings between the various groups » The Italian MEP rapporteur Elly Schlein said. The Dublin regulation is the core of the European asylum system and it is one of the most difficult nodes of the entire functioning of the European Union. « It is an important result also because we are having a difficult time and these reforms are crucial to face a challenge that no Member State can manage on its own. In addition, this challenge comes as a European and global challenge and then calls everyone to one's own responsibility. »

With this reform, some fundamental changes take place with respect to the actual Dublin regulation approved in 1990 and reformed twice without however modifying its general scheme. Gianfranco Schiavone, president of the Italian Solidarity Consortium and vice president of Asgi, explains that « the principle linking the competence of examining the applications to the first country in which the person entered has been finally cancelled. It was a mechanism that we have lugged for all these years and that has never worked but created enormous failures and enormous suffering to the people who have been involved. A system of compulsory transfers from one country to another that has basically generated a kind of monster and that could not work since if it had worked it would have effectively attributed almost exclusively to countries with external, land or sea borders all the burden of asylum applications.»

To overcome this setting, the European Commission had proposed a mechanism that did not provide for a complete abandonment of the geographical logic, but just a reduction of this concept for which the distribution by quota would be entered in force only after a certain crisis threshold. « Yet now, this mechanism is radically overtaken. Thus, those who enter Europe enter the European Union, not in one country or another. To which country these people will be sent to apply for asylum depends on the quotas defined by country based on objective criteria.» Mr Schiavone said. Then, there is a second element which is intended to rebalance the ratio of quotas amending another aspect which is historically present in the Dublin system: the logic for which people, apart from their very close family ties (spouses and minor children) had no chance to choose the country of destination. «Under that new perspective, migration history, intentions, significant ties with a given country gain legal significance, therefore the notion of family is widened, and the competence is rooted also based on the presence of uncles, grandchildren and brothers. In addition, it is envisaged that previous stays in a country, for example for working or studying reasons, or having attended a course of study in a country other than the country of arrival or to which the quota would be assigned, provides further competences.» Mr Schiavone explained.

«We have been the first to ask for an immediate reform of the Dublin system when we entered the European Parliament. » Laura Ferrara, MEP of the 5 Star Movement, said. « For us the reform of the Dublin System has been mandatory since it penalised countries like Italy, that means the countries of first entry which had to effectively withhold all the asylum seekers who arrived in Italy not because Italy was the desired destination but since it was a final destination, a mandatory step from which then, maybe, reach other European countries in which perhaps there were relatives, family members, friends». Whilst agreeing with the criticism of the system currently in force, the EU representatives of the 5 Star Movement have however decided to vote against the reform, ending up in alignment with the conservative groups and the governing parties of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. «I had already said it at the press conference the day before the vote. I said that we would vote against for a diametrically opposing view that the positions of countries like those of Visegrad or of all those who voted against. »
« We had to answer a question, that is, in what terms the Dublin regulation could be reformed to facilitate Italy. Our goal was to finally have a fair sharing of responsibilities among all EU member states, and therefore to comply with the provisions of Article 80 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union which expresses solidarity and fair sharing of responsibilities regarding the management of migration flows. Unfortunately, we cannot see this achievement in the text that was just voted by the European Parliament since formally it sets that the principle of the country of first entry is abolished but in fact the first entry countries like Italy continue to carry the burdens and the responsibilities that we cannot see in other EU Member States.» Mrs Ferrara said.

According to Laura Ferrara, the problem lies in the filter placed upstream of the relocation mechanism of asylum seekers, which includes the two exceptions of the countries of northern Europe, which do not want to take charge either of potentially dangerous subjects or of so-called economic migrants, i.e. those people who are not fleeing persecution or violence. « We want an automatic mechanism since this proposal does not seem ambitious and at times we see a hypocritical solidarity. Thus, we would like something more, also because we understand when negotiations with the European Council begin unfortunately there are great chances of getting less than what has been achieved with the text of the European Parliament, thus if it represents a not very ambitious position in our opinion, then the text that will result after the negotiations with the Council will probably be even more penalising. »

The reform rapporteur, Elly Schlein, as well as the lawyer Gianfranco Schiavone, took opposing view. According to both, the reform improves the current mechanism, which provides that Italy is required to examine the requests of all the people arriving in our territory, while with the text issued by the European Parliament this will happen only for those who fail to motivate their asylum application and for motivated cases with security reasons, such as international terrorism. «Although the national data classification system has not currently classified the rejected applications and those rejected as manifestly unfounded, I can affirm that this is a very small percentage of the total denials. »Mr Schiavone said. « Not only did we cancel the principle by which people could be sent back to Italy and Greece simply because they entered Italy and Greece. But, we have also included innovative and accelerated family reunification procedures to avoid that, as happened in Como last year, minors would remain up to two years in a country of first arrival waiting for a reunification with a family member in another member state ». Elly Shlein said.
The most serious problem concerns the real possibilities that this reform will be enforced. In fact, when the negotiation arrives at the European Council, the risk of sabotage will become increasingly possible. « This is a shameful Council since they are governments that currently cannot find the agreement if not on the dimension of outsourcing our borders and responsibilities. But when we talk about internal solidarity and internal sharing of a phenomenon that could be easily managed and sustainable with a common commitment, the starting positions are very distant. The Council would hardly approve the cancellation of the principle of the first country of access, but in short, being a legislative body to all effects, our position is as valid as their one. We must negotiate it by starting from a strong, clear and very ambitious indication from the Parliament. This strong position will ensure that there is no retrenchment, as there was the risk that the line of the Council and also of the Commission was followed. »

Actually, not only has the Dublin regulation been reformed, but the whole European asylum system. « I hope that this vote will also foster a revision of those less fortunate parts of the other regulations on which we are working. It is very likely that if a part of the system does not have to be reformed, imbalances would be created. But, the regulations under discussion are marked by a restrictive logic, closing the fundamental rights of people. Currently, the reform of the Dublin System has been quite positive. »Mr Schiavone said.

In addition to the 5 Star Movement, to vote against has been, as mentioned, above all central-eastern and northern European parties, which could now aim to slow down the path of reform also in the European Council, relying on problems that are essentially of a political nature. « They represent the reasons of those who essentially live on the logic and the syndrome of invasion and who need this syndrome to survive politically. »

Many of them, in fact, and also Mr Schiavone, argue that «in a European scenario in which the entering place is no longer relevant, the logic of the wall no longer serves and no longer has any importance. Hungary would no longer have reason to live on the logic of the invasion because if you enter Hungary it does not mean that you should stay. These perspectives are drained, they are disassembled by a reform of this kind. Certainly, the country of first arrival has a load of assistance that no one can take away, but then this dissolves into a shared system. »

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