The Dublin Regulation

The EU member countries as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein have entered into an agreement, called the Dublin Regulation. The Dublin Regulation has been adjusted several times and The Dublin III-agreement has been effective since 2013. The principle of the agreement is that an asylum seeker’s case can only be considered in one European country, to economize on resources. The Dublin Regulation procedure operates through fingerprints, visa, and connection through family relations. The whole procedure and the determination of responsibility are quite complicated.       

Together with EU’s common goal and minimum-standards in regard to asylum, the Dublin Regulation could be a sensible and reasonable idea. However, a big problem with the agreement is that the asylum seeker is supposed to make an asylum claim in the first European country she/he arrives at. Due to their geographical locations, countries such as Italy, Malta, and Greece receive more asylum seekers and are therefore expected to process more asylum cases than other European countries. Another problem with the Dublin Regulation is that the standards for both the asylum processing and the practical accommodation and support vary widely among the European countries. For example, Sweden is considered to have the highest standards while in countries such as Bulgaria and Serbia asylum seekers are not even guaranteed the most basic human rights. The country that is processing the asylum case is also the country where the asylum seeker is required to live if she/he is granted asylum.  

In this way, the Dublin Regulation is kind of a lottery for asylum seekers which treats asylum seekers differentially rather than uniformly. So far, the Danish state has supported the agreement. The Danish state transfers three times as many asylum seekers to other EU countries as it accepts asylum seekers' transfer from other EU countries. Most European countries are not interested in the proposals that suggest a more fair distribution, which have been put forward several times. The criteria for such distribution could be based on population, GDP, unemployment and how many refugees there is in the country already. In addition, Denmark is not part of EU’s judicial cooperation and will, therefore, not be subject to any distribution of asylum seekers within the EU.    

Denmark has a restrictive practice in Dublin cases: if the Danish state can dismiss a person to another European country, then it will try to do so. Because some countries may be reluctant to answer or accept an asylum seeker, there have been cases where asylum seekers have been waiting for more than a year before Denmark finally conceded and processed the asylum case in Denmark. An asylum seeker can file a complaint about the Danish Immigration Service’s ruling of a Dublin case and the Danish Refugee Council has a special office that assists with these complaints. It is the Refugee Appeals Board that determines the complaints and very few complaints have been successful.

A few countries have such big difficulties with the reception and treatment of asylum seekers that there are national and European convictions against returning asylum seekers to those countries. Since 2011, European countries have not returned any asylum seekers to Greece, and at the moment, a number of countries do not send asylum seekers back to Bulgaria. Vulnerable people (including families with small children) are not allowed to be returned to Italy without a special guarantee, which Italy is reluctant to issue. Italy does not register all asylum seekers’ fingerprints, rather it allows asylum seekers to continue their travel to other countries. 

During the summer of 2015 the Dublin system almost collapsed, because many countries no longer took fingerprints but let people pass through (among these were Denmark). Nonetheless, Denmark still returns people based on fingerprints. However, the Danish Refugee Appeals Board made a stop for returns to Hungary in May 2017. Following the Dublin III, unaccompanied minors are no longer being transferred unless they want to.