Proposal by EU states to Unlock Asylum Impass: Implications and Repercussions

Updated: May 16, 2020

Ridhima Bhardwaj

Research Intern,


Europe is one of the world's major migratory migration destinations: there are 77 million refugees in Europe, including Russia, according to the UN population agency. Yet it's hard for Europeans to accept that Europe is a place of immigrants. The populist parties oppose the 'great change,' 'invasion,' 'conquest' and the lack of sovereignty of the Nations, whereas approximately 34,000 people have already lost their lives in the Mediterranean since the beginning of this century.

International migration is structural: in a global phenomenon, a combination of reasons drive people to migrate to Europe; first, the search for better housing and job conditions, and the bid to escape wars and conflicts. The vision of Europe became feasible in the East due to the incremental opening of the former Communist states to the residence and work for people, forming circulatory migration as a manner of living. Most movements from the South are the product of family reunions, as Europe stopped paid workers immigration for non-Europeans in 1974 and its migration history illustrates this trend that it shares with the United States. Students are also a significant aspect, as Europe is opening up to eligible students for whom the continent has multiplied its attractiveness.[1]


The asylum system of the European Union seems to be controlled by two mechanisms which evoke the wrath of some Member States and then others. There is a possibility that the split European Union could burst on asylum matters. Since 2015, conflict and dissatisfaction have dominated the EU's public debate on asylum and migration.

The topic of unity and collective responsibility for refugees and migrants arriving at the EU's external borders, in particular, has split Member States. However, when it comes to securing borders and keeping refugees out of reach, EU Member States have been quick in seeking tools and common approaches and demonstrating unity and determination.[2]

In recent years, Europe has had to respond to the most serious migration crisis since World War II. In 2015, the EU reported 1.25 million first-time asylum seekers; by 2018, this number had dropped to 581,000 seekers. In 2018, there were 116,647 people travelling to Europe by sea, compared to more than one million in 2015. In 2018, the whole figure of illegal border-crossings into the EU plummeted to 150,114, its lowest level in five years and 92% below the peak of the migratory crisis in 2015.[3]


While migrant flows have subsided, the crisis has highlighted vulnerabilities in the European asylum mechanism. Parliament has tried to address this by the revision of EU asylum laws and the tightening of EU border controls.

At European level, the immigration program deals with both legal and illegal immigration. Regarding normal immigration, the EU agrees on the appropriate entry and residency requirements. Member States hold the right to decide on amounts of entry for citizens arriving from non-EU countries looking for jobs.

The European Union is also tackling irregular immigration, in particular through a return policy which respects fundamental rights. There is no harmonization of regional laws with respect to integration. The EU may play a supporting role, however, especially in financial terms.

In introducing new legislation on illegal and normal immigration, the European Parliament is directly engaged. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, he is a major co-legislator along with the Council of member states on these issues.


The EU has been working on the development of a Common European Asylum Scheme (CEAS) since 1999. It must have:

  • Clear guidelines for awarding refugee status to all Member States

  • A process for deciding the Member State is responsible for considering a request for asylum

  • Agreed principles on terms of admission

  • Alliances and collaboration with non-EU countries

The European Parliament agrees on an equal basis with the EU Council on asylum-related laws under the Lisbon Treaty.


The study of the European immigration and asylum program shows a great many flaws, if not humanitarian crises that will forever mark its history: the deaths in the Mediterranean, the emergence of drug smuggling networks in Libya and even those in the Near and Middle East, Offering candidates entry to Europe, not only in deadly circumstances but even before their trip, as outlined in the UN Human Rights Department report: enslavement, slavery, abuse, abortion, the selling of organs, camps whose living circumstances were unthinkable in the 21st century, as in the Greek Dodecanese Islands (particularly Lesbos), the 'jungles,' as in Calais until 2016, transient ‘world towns’ as in Grand Synthe, or in the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, risky mountain crossings as in the Valley of the Roya (France) in a bid to escape the boundary of Ventimiglia, a life on the streets for adults under the age of 18 or young, since they have no fixed home.[4]


Dublin Regulation, the single most important feature of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), specifies the protocol for obtaining refugee status. This specifies which EU member is responsible for handling applications for asylum, with the general rule that it is the first country to join. Many considerations including family condition and health are taken into consideration on special occasions.

The new scheme, established in 2003, was not meant to allocate asylum claims between member states, and when the number of asylum seekers joining the EU increased in 2015, countries like Greece and Italy started struggling to accept all applicants. Since 2009 the Parliament has been pressing for a reform of the Dublin scheme.

The European Commission suggested the so-called fairness mechanism in April 2016, a way for member states to share responsibilities for refugees depending on income and scale of their population.

The European Parliament approved on 6 November 2017 a mandate for inter-institutional talks with EU governments on revising the Dublin laws. The Parliament's proposals for a new Dublin regulation include:

  • The country where an asylum seeker arrives first will no longer be solely responsible for the handling of the asylum request.

  • Asylum seekers with a 'genuine link' to a different EU country will be moved there.

  • Anyone lacking a legitimate connection to an EU country would be equally shared between all Member States. Countries which refuse to enter the movement of asylum seekers could lose fund from the EU.

  • Security protocols must be upped, and all asylum applicants should be registered with fingerprints tested against specific EU databases upon entry.

  • Minimal provisions will be improved and family reunification processes sped up.

While the Parliament has been prepared to enter into talks on a Dublin framework reform since November 2017, EU governments have struggled to find a consensus on the proposals.[5]


On 29 January 2020, a new work plan for the European Commission was released. The Commission stated its intention to initiate a new agreement on asylum and migration under the fifth goal - 'Promoting our European Way of Life.' The agreement is due to be implemented in the first quarter of 2020, according to the research plan.

The agreement acknowledges that internal and external facets of migration are intertwined and strives for a more robust, secure and effective scheme of migration and asylum, which would also underpin trust in the Schengen region of free movement.[6]

The EU has responded rapidly to the situation at the Greek-Turkish border with a restored unity and solidarity. At this week's meeting of the Interior Ministers, disputes and discrepancies were resolved and the EU Member States decided on a proposal to help Greece in securing the EU's external borders. The Greek suspension of asylum requests, and forceful stoppage of entrance by refugees at their borders, have achieved backing from the EU and the Member States.

The upcoming EU Pact on Migration and Asylum provides an opportunity to take a new path for EU asylum and migration policy.

The danger is not the men, women and children who are fleeing oppression, war and abuse, finding stability and safety at our borders. The challenge is that the interests of refugees and migrants are continuously legitimized and justified.

The threat is the depletion of the regional network of refugees. The incremental normalization to the serious, observed within its boundaries and in its external actions in the EU's migrant and asylum policies over the last five years.


Therefore, there is a need that has arisen as acknowledged by organizations working for the cause of refugees, which calls on EU leaders to use the forthcoming new Agreement to put freedom back to the core of its asylum and migration policies and to use the restored EU solidarity to pursue common strategies for developing asylum processes and responses to migration.

These groups propose that EU policymakers decide on a new Migration and Asylum Agreement that emphasizes on EU asylum implementation and restricts asylum regulation to the Dublin framework, including a permanent unity mechanism. It must ensure that anyone requesting protection has successful access to the asylum process and that it fosters refugee settlement with a view to long-term approaches. Also, it should support division of responsibility for ensuring security – within the EU and beyond and encourage coordination and comments on rights-based and conflict-sensitive migration.[7]

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