HOW WE SEE IT #5 – EU & MIGRATION

Migrations in Europe with a focus on the Dublin regulation

The Dublin regulation outlines the principle rule by which member countries must conduct in regard to refugees and asylum seekers; i.e. any illegal immigrants into the European Union. The regulation establishes the principle that only one member state is responsible for examining an asylum application, in order to avoid abuse of the system and asylum seekers wandering from one country to the other. However, this regulation has been abused largely in the late years, particularly by immigrants from North-East Africa in 2011 and Syria in 2015.

Namely, since the law is applicable only in European Union member states, it has caused the issue of large numbers finding refuge in countries outside the EU – Serbia and Macedonia in particular  – and afterwards proceeding to the closest EU state, mostly Germany. The use of the agreement serves to regulate immigration and provide physical proof (names and fingerprints) of people entering the EU this way. But, the law occasionally causes events of extreme suffering and hardship among immigrants, hence resulting in acts of violence on the territory of the EU.

Primarily, this is because the Dublin Regulation insists on people remaining in the country they reached first upon entering the Union’s territory. In most cases, this is either Italy or Greece because they are the easily accessible two. However, since these countries are the easiest to reach by sea routes from trouble spots in the third world – Ethiopia, Sudan and Syria to name a few –  Italy and Greece are unable to cope with the huge influx of people, being unable to provide work and proper housing. Because of these circumstances, refugees are taking dramatic measures to flee these countries and search for better living and working conditions in other EU countries, such as Germany and Norway, who are known to have a higher living standard. But, since their first registration upon entrance was not in this country, the authorities are inclined to deport them back, thus disallowing their integration into society. The refugees then tend to take desperate measures to enable them an entrance to a new country, which to them is a doorway to a better life. In 2011, North-African refugees residing in Italy attempted to bypass the system by burning their fingertips so they could apply for asylum in a new country as a new person, and any prior entrance to the EU would be erased.

This desperate act, done by thousands, sparked the sharp criticism of the Dublin regulation. Migrants themselves regard it as dreadful as AIDS, while human rights activists and charity owners claim ‘refugees are traumatised by Dublin’, which does not work in conduct with the Italian or Greek internal systems, leaving thousands of migrants with legal documents out in the street, providing them with no help from neither the Government nor the EU.

The pressure of the opposition facing the regulation has finally broken it in 2015, when Germany officially suspended it and dealt with Syrian migrants by their own policies. For long, it was the German viewpoint that the system is abused by other EU member states to avoid accepting any refugees into their territory. The scraping of the document reached various feedback. Some countries, like Belgium and Holland, saluted the German move and agreed with them, while Britain attempted restoring the system immediately to protect their own borders. However, the majority of the Union considers the system to cause disasters on the international level, campaigning for the complete end of Dublin and calling for ‘courageous’ and humane actions from Europe.

In conclusion, this protocol, originally devised in 1990, has proven effective in several occasions. But, as the world develops and more and more crisis occur, it is essential to develop it accordingly, even if that means carrying out unwanted laws and actions to evenly distribute large numbers of people in need across the continent, for everyone’s best interest.

Filip Đelević, Montenegrin Association of Political Science Students (MAPSS)

Dublin Agreement

Thousands of refuges continue to arrive on the shores of Europe in 2016 after around a million entered in 2015 alone. The civil war in Syria has caused the displacement of over 6.5 million people within Syria and over 4.5 million have fled to its neighbouring countries Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt. Only 10% have fled to Europe. This is not only a European crisis, but it seems to be defining the very foundations of European values. The European Union was a symbol of unity and shared policy, and now the legitimacy of those principles is shattering. The Dublin III regulation is the third formation of the same system that hadn’t worked the previous two versions of it. 2015 saw EU member states defying the directive for its lack of humanity and efficiency. How can the country of first point of entry hold all the fleeing refugees in a crisis? People have been risking their lives on rubber dinghies trying to get to Greece for decades, but the war in Syria has caused the number to spike.

In October and November alone there were up to 6,000 asylum seekers arriving on Lesvos alone every single day. I spent over 4 weeks on Lesvos and Chios in November and December and found that many refugees had families in European states like Germany or Norway waiting for them, but many had nothing. Many were minors who, unlike their parents, had survived the bombings in Aleppo or Damascus and were traveling with an uncle or another family who took them on. If Greece were to follow the Dublin III regulations they would end up in detention centres for weeks before their application was processed, or they would have been sent back from Hungary or Macedonia if they got that far. When visiting Moria camp in Mytilene I accidentally walked straight into one of these detention centres where children were waving at me behind high barbed wired fences asking for sweets and cigarettes. They were Afghani and Iraqi and had no idea what was to happen to them.

The 10% of asylum seekers within the European border are defining Europe. On August 24th 2015, Germany suspended the Dublin regulation; on September 2nd the Czech Republic did the same. They both offered asylum seekers direct processing of their applications declaring the inhumane treatment this regulation was causing, however in October the United Nations accused the Czech Republic of violating human rights laws in their treatment of refugees in detention, strip searching them for daily fees for being detained. Recently Denmark passed a law allowing them to confiscate any valuable belongings from its asylum seekers to not only balance the cost of having such an influx of people but to deter asylum seekers to choose Denmark as their safe haven.

One must remember the thousands of refugees neighbouring countries accepted when the Soviet tanks arrived in Budapest and Prague less than a century ago. Demonstrations all over Europe showcase the opinions of populations that are often more protectionist than their government. Far right movements have spiked and even left wing liberals are allowing xenophobia to take over their judgement.

Spending time on the shores of Europe where people arrive with nothing more than their children and the clothes on their backs seeking safety until they can return to their home, its clear that nothing about this is going to be all right. Of course there’s nothing good about refugees fleeing, arriving at Europe’s doorsteps, stirring the fragile agreements in the community of a small but powerful continent, however it must react, and the one choice it can make is what reaction that will be. Nothing about this is easy or beneficial, of course it’s a mess, it’s a crisis, however we must react and this is when we show our real state of humanity. Individual, self-sponsored volunteers are leading the humanitarian reaction of Europe. The front lines of this crisis are led by ordinary citizens of Europe, not by the European Commission, or states. The reason we are able to help is because we can get on a flight and go to Lesvos, and Chios, and Idomeni and provide aid, show solidarity, something we can do because of the Schengen, because of EU open border policies. The foundations of Europe are stumbling on their own citizens, those using the system’s freedom and protection to extend a hand to another human in need, and choking on it’s own empty declarations of human rights and reputation of compassion.

Odessa, Global Politics and International Relations at Birkbeck, University of London.