The Dublin regulation in its three incarnations have attracted plenty of criticism on various grounds and from various statutory and non-statutory actors – the most noticeable perhaps being it is a system that impact unevenly on EU member states, with countries at the EU southern border particularly exposed because of their position. These countries have traditionally responded to the pressure imposed by the Dublin regulation in two ways – formally, complaining and demanding more solidarity from other member states; informally, letting people slip through their bureaucratic net not finger-printing them (see Italy) or creating or allowing such poor reception conditions for asylum seekers to force other member states (under pressure from their judiciary and civil society) to stop returning so called ‘Dublin cases’ on human rights ground (see Greece).
The events of the last months have de facto led to the suspension of the Dublin regulation and a further intensified the call for a substantial revamp of the system whose limitations have become blatantly widely apparent lately. So it came with no surprise this week’s announcement by the EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos that the commission is planning a radical make-over of the Dublin regulation, with the introduction of a ‘quasi-automatic’ distribution key system. As Avramopolous told MEPs in the civil liberties committees, ‘Dublin should not be any more just a mechanism to allocate responsibility’.
The aim is to create ‘a solidarity instrument among member. We don’t need to go back much to recall the strenuous opposition that many member states have displayed over the summer months to any proposal for the relocation of asylum seekers registered in Italy, Greece and Hungary to other member states. After many EU summits and quite a lot of muscle-flexing by Germany and Italy, last September EU states eventually and reluctantly agreed to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers in two years. At 14 January, however, member states had made available only 4237 places (2.5% of those promised) but only managed to relocate 272 refugees over this period (0.17 % of the pledged 160,000). The implementation so far of the relocation scheme doesn’t give much hope of the ability of the European Commission to implement a quasi-automatic redistribution system for what are likely to be far larger numbers.
The slow start of the scheme further confirms not only the crisis of solidarity within the EU, but also facility with which the EU can create new bureaucratic monsters, expensive, time-consuming and redundant. 40 liaison officers and 200 experts have been appointed to implement the relocation scheme so far, roughly almost one expert per resettled refugees and one liaison officer for 5 resettled refugees, not exactly value for money, and ultimately further undermining people trust in the capacity of the EU to display leadership in handling the crisis.