makedonija, grčka, migranti, izbjeglice.jpg
Photograph: EPA/NAKE BATEV

The European Union's executive floated options Wednesday aimed at making the bloc's asylum system fairer and more harmonized.

The existing so-called Dublin rules, under which asylum seekers must file their claims in the first EU state they reach, failed last year to cope with an inflow of more than 1 million people into Europe.

The European Commission is expected to present legislative proposals in the coming months.

It is envisaging the following reforms:


- Option 1: Dublin-Plus

The Dublin system could remain in place, but with an additional "corrective fairness mechanism" that kicks in when a member state is overburdened by a "large and disproportionate inflow" of migrants or asylum seekers.

Once a predefined threshold of asylum applications is reached in the country in question, potential refugees would be redistributed across other member states, according to a set distribution key.

At present, a similar mechanism exists as a one-off pledge to relieve countries such as Greece and Italy of up to 160,000 asylum seekers. Implementation is lagging, however, with just over 1,100 people relocated to date.

- Option 2: Fundamental overhaul

Under this plan, the Dublin system would be scrapped and replaced with a mechanism allocating asylum seekers to member states on the basis of a distribution key that takes into account the countries' size, wealth and capacity to absorb refugees. This would be irrespective of where the asylum claimant first entered the EU.

Individual member states would be responsible for deciding on the asylum requests of those people allocated to them.

- 'Europeanization' of the asylum process

In the long term, the commission suggests that the responsibility for assessing asylum claims could shift to the EU level, for example to a bolstered-up version of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO).

Asylum seekers would be allocated to member states on the basis of the distribution key outlined above, but the decision to grant them refugee status would be taken centrally.

The commission acknowledges, however, that this would require "major institutional transformation," making it "difficult to envisage in the short or medium term."


- Further harmonize EU asylum rules

Each member state has its own rules to assess asylum claims, meaning that people "shop" around and try to reach those countries where they consider their chances to be highest. The national systems are in line with EU guidelines, but the commission wants to replace these with a single set of asylum rules applying to all member states, harmonizing aspects such as the maximum duration of the asylum procedure. It also wants to ensure that reception conditions are the same across the EU.

- Prevent border-hopping within the EU

A lack of internal EU borders makes it easy for asylum seekers to file their claim in one member state and then abscond to another. The commission is considering sanctions in such cases, including possible detention. It also suggested reinforcing the existing rules to ensure that refugees are only entitled to rights and benefits in the country granting them protection.

- Expand use of fingerprint database

The commission wants to expand the Eurodac system, which stores fingerprint data, so it can help in applying the reformed asylum system. This would also make Eurodac available to help identify economic migrants - those who are not entitled to international protection - and return them home more easily.

- Strengthen EASO's role

EASO could be given greater powers to ensure that member states are complying with EU asylum standards on issues such as reception conditions and access to asylum procedures. This could pave the way for the commission to intervene by prescribing extra measures if shortcomings are identified.

The commission also suggested appointing EASO to carry out the distribution of asylum seekers under either of the two suggested options to reform the Dublin system.

Latest news

Stickers reading "Serbian Family Tree" appear in Vukovar

Stickers reading "Serbian Family Tree" with the image of people hanging from a tree and the face of Ante Pavelic, Croatian fascist dictator who led the Ustasha movement and the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), appeared at bus stations along Trpinjska Street in the eastern Croatian town of Vukovar on Friday.

Turkish ruling party launches campaign for constitutional changes

Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Saturday formally launched its campaign for the upcoming referendum on core constitutional changes set to empower the presidency, with a mass rally at a sports arena in Ankara.

Top US general visits Syrian Kurds with focus on al-Raqqa campaign

A top US general visited Syrian Kurdish forces and their allies in northern Syria this week, amid signs the US military was increasing its support for anti-Islamic State forces, despite risks that such a move could anger neighbouring Turkey. 

Germany expects long-term migration growth after revising estimates

Net migration to Germany is expected to be 200,000 annually in the coming years, according to a news report to be published Sunday.

Malaysian police seek to reassure public over VX nerve agent

Malaysian police said on Saturday they would do everything possible to ensure there was no risk to the public from the lethal VX nerve agent used to kill Kim Jong Nam in the country's main international airport.

Cretu says Croatia must accelerate apsorbtion of European funds

The Commissioner also said that for the 2014-2020 period, Croatia would have twice the amount from the previous period at its disposal -- a total of EUR 10.67 billion.

Germany's Schulz accepts only 'small' role in party's poll boost

The main rival to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in this year's elections has said the boost in opinion polls for his Social Democrats (SPD) is not mainly down to him personally.

Coordinated suicide attacks kill over 40 in Syria’s Homs

Forty-two security personnel were killed Saturday in synchronized attacks targeting government security facilities in the Syrian city of Homs, a monitoring group said, with up to six suicide bombers reported to be involved.

Bangladesh PM calls for 'huge fund' to renovate factories

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday urged international clothing brands to help factory owners overhaul their facilities.

EC adopts delegated act on Teran, despite Slovenia's opposition

The European Commission has, despite Slovenia's opposition, adopted a delegated act whereby Croatian winemakers in Istria would be enabled to continue selling their wine made from the Teran grape variety under the name "Croatian Istria - Teran", and the act could be published early next week, the Slovenian news agency STA reported on Friday.

Filipinos mark 1986 mass uprising amid fears of new 'dictatorship'

Thousands of protesters on Saturday marked a 1986 mass uprising that ousted late Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, amid fears of a crackdown against political opponents of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Rocket attack leave 2 students dead in eastern Afghanistan

At least two students were killed when a rocket fired by Taliban militants hit a school in Afghanistan’s eastern Laghman province on Saturday morning, local authorities said.