6 May 2016

On Wednesday 4 May, the European Commission tabled legislative proposals to amend the Dublin Regulation, the Eurodac Regulation and the EASO Regulation, as part of a first package of a broad reform of the Common European Asylum System announced last month.

The proposed reform of the Dublin Regulation will not revisit the responsibility criteria of the current mechanism, which in the majority of cases lead to Member States of first entry being designated as responsible for asylum seekers. The weight placed on the irregular entry criterion could be further exacerbated given that the 12-month time-limit, after which the responsibility of the country of entry ceases under the current rules, is to be removed. The proposal includes a “corrective fairness mechanism” of relocation, to be triggered in Member States facing particular pressure, similar to a reform proposed last September. Under that mechanism, asylum seekers will be subject to a relocation scheme from the country in question only after their claim has been deemed admissible, namely after the potential applicability of the “safe third country” concept has been ruled out in their case. Member States refusing to relocate asylum seekers will have to pay 250,000€ per person to the country in which he or she is relocated.

The Dublin proposal raises several concerns as it includes a number of modifications which contradict earlier jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the European Union. While the extension of the definition of family is a positive step, the principle that unaccompanied children are to be transferred to the first country in which they applied for asylum goes against the MAjudgment, which found that, given their particular vulnerabilities, “as a rule, unaccompanied minors should not be transferred”. In addition, sanctions such as withdrawal of material reception conditions against those who engage in secondary movements are in tension with the Cimade & GISTIruling of the Court.

The Eurodac database is to be expanded with the objective of supporting return and actions related to irregular migration. Fingerprints of irregular migrants, already recorded under the current Eurodac Regulation, will be available for search and storage so as to aid Member States in identifying them for the purposes of return. The new Eurodac Regulation will also provide for the storage of more personal information on asylum seekers and migrants, such as names, dates of birth, nationality, travel documents or even facial images. Data protection principles such as purpose-limitation, necessity and proportionality are at risk of being compromised from such a broad expansion.

Lastly, the Commission proposes the transformation of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) into a European Union Agency for Asylum with a wider mandate. The Agency will be in charge of operating the corrective fairness mechanism under the new Dublin Regulation, as well as ensuring greater convergence in decision-making and standards between Member States’ asylum systems.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 May 2016. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.