Event Report: The Shifting Status of Asylum Seekers in the EU

The Shifting Status of Asylum Seekers in the EU. Picture taken by Johanna Stapelberg on October 11, 2018.

On October 11th, 2018, the World Solidarity Forum hosted the event, ‘The Shifting of Asylum Seekers in the EU’, at the Library Ambiorix. It was a roundtable discussion with a keynote speaker: Dr. Torsten Moritz, General Secretary at the CCME.

Dr. Moritz covered various topics related to the recent legislative proposals made by the European Commission to improve asylum rules in the EU. A revision of the Dublin Regulation was amongst the proposals. This regulation is the EU law that determines each EU Member States responsibility for examining an application for asylum seekers seeking international protection under the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directive within the European Union. According to the Dublin Regulation, the country where the asylum seeker arrives first is in charge of the application process. It is important to mention that these countries often have badly developed asylum systems or procedures (e.g. Greece, Italy). Therefore, the majority of asylum seekers do not stay in these countries for various reasons; this process of moving to another country is called ‘secondary movement’. The European Commission wants to prevent this process. However, there are countries that refuse to review the Dublin Regulation (e.g. Poland, Hungary). Other nations, like Italy, Spain, and Greece, do not want to review the Dublin Regulation unless changes will be made in the regulation.

Moreover, Dr. Moritz addressed other proposals and changes made by the European Commission. For instance, the European Commission proposed a comprehensive and compulsory list of ‘safe third countries’ or ‘safe countries of origin’. This application procedure would be a so-called ‘expedited procedure’. This means that if an asylum seeker has traveled between countries while being considered under a category mentioned above, they would be sent back to this country. Furthermore, the European Commission proposed a mandatory review of the status of asylum seekers. This might be an obstacle to enter the job market if an asylum seeker maybe stays for one year only.

The concept of international flight alternative was also mentioned in the discussion. Instead of being protected by the EU, the person could go to a close country of his heritage that is safe. For instance, people from Chechnya could be sent to Moscow instead. Similarly, there is another proposed alternative that African states could take back the asylum seekers to ‘external processing platforms’. As for asylum seekers rescued at sea, they would be sent to camps in Africa. It is not decided yet whether these camps will be open camps or closed ones. Moreover, the initial hearing of the applicant, whether international protection is necessary in a specific case, will take place in the camp or alternatively at EU territory. So far, African states have not approved this approach, which was already proposed by Toni Blair back in 2003.

Further, Dr. Moritz referred back to the organization he is working at. He explained that the CCME is in favor of redistribution according to preferences of asylum seekers. He pointed out that there is a lack of information for/and lack of information among asylum seekers about different EU Member States. For instance, Luxembourg is a very rich country, yet it is not a preferred destination. Poland and Hungary demonstrated a lack of willingness to accept asylum seekers. However, it might be easier for asylum seekers to enter the job market there instead of other countries that have to deal with a high number of asylum seekers, like Germany.

The main takeaway from the discussion is that migration has always existed throughout history. It is our responsibility to put in an effort. Contrary to the belief that asylums seekers are not wanted in the EU, Moritz emphasized Germany as an example, where 6.9 million people still help asylum seekers daily. Moreover, a common asylum system does exist and the rules that are in place are actually not bad. The reluctance for implementation is the actual problem.

 

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