When Policies Collide

The Dublin Regulation and the Schengen Agreement blur the guidelines for EU

By Hannah Kaplan and Leah Sarnoff

The phrase “history repeats itself” is sadly all too appropriate to the current European Union refugee crisis.

In search of life free of civil war and endless persecution, hundreds of thousands of people risk traveling across lands and oceans with uncertainty looming and boarders quickly closing.

The highest concentration of displaced refugees since World War II has forced many to harshly scrutinize the European Union law framework. Although the European Union has not violated international law, it still currently lacks a reliable system set in place to do what the member states have promised.

In attempt to control unauthorized immigration, the European Union implemented the Dublin Regulation in 1990 as a product of the Geneva Convention goals. According to the EU, this regulation aimed to prevent asylum seekers from submitting applications to multiple member states; therefore preventing an over-flow of asylum applications to countries receiving the immigrants. However, the original aim of the Dublin Regulation has become irrelevant in the face of the current crises.

The European Commission has tailored the system up to 2013, employing the most recent Dublin III Regulation, however, with the severity of the crisis, the fruits of their labor remain unseen.

“Ultimately, I think the Dublin Regulation should be done away with,” Professor and Director of the Center for Refugee Studies at U.C. Hastings College of the Law, Karen Mussalo said. “As evident by the current situation, the Dublin Regulation can result in some countries having the responsibility for exceedingly large numbers of asylum seekers, while other countries, due to geography, have no responsibility.”

Prior to the Dublin Regulation, the Schengen Agreement of 1985 was the glue that held together Europe’s migration policies. Implemented through the Treaty of Amsterdam, the agreement took full effect in 1995 abolishing checks at internal borders and improving conditions between police and judicial services.

The Treaty of Amsterdam clearly stirred security concerns and debate. Member States argued that these rules should distinguish between EU and non-EU nationals, while other members were in favor of free movement for everyone.

Currently six member states do not partake in the “Schengen Area”, four—Bulgaria, Croatia, Cypress and Romania—are not formally members but wish to join. The other two—Ireland and the United Kingdom remain opt-outs.

This left the remaining European countries without passport checks and a common boarder policy leaving room for illegal migration within the Schengen Agreement. The formally recognized rules under the Schengen Agreement consequently make the Dublin Regulation harder to enforce, however this may be relative.

Legal advisor for the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) Amanda Taylor believes that Schengen is symptomatic of difficulties with the enforcement of Dublin, but it is purely Dublin, which is at the root of the problem. She goes on to explain that, “In this situation it is of course natural for refugees to want to move elsewhere, Schengen may facilitate this but it is certainly not the reason for the push in the first place. It is the Dublin system itself.”

These two agreements have created conflicting rulings and blurred the guidelines as for what each member state is obligated to follow. With the current migrant influx putting stress on the continent’s incomplete integration, European Commission’s First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans, addressed this issue at the First Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights in Brussels.

“Europe is going through a period of crisis and turmoil, which is challenging the very values on which it was built, Timmermans said. “It is challenging the very fabric of European society and therefore the very fabric of European cooperation.”

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