What’s up Dublin – Merlin Hosak, Germany

We have heard a lot about refugees, xenophobia, mistakes and possible solutions over the past years. Throughout this time, the so-called “Dublin Treaties” have often been in the media. But what are they about, why are they criticized, and do they have any alternatives?

On the 25th of February 2003, the EU published the second Dublin Treaty that would come into force on the 1st of March in the same year. Besides the EU states, Norway, Switzerland and Iceland also advocated the decree. The treaty states that if any refugee or asylum seeker is registered at a state office in a particular country, that country is responsible for handling their application for asylum. The Dublin III treaty, which was made and came into force in summer 2013, broadened the decree to all refugees that sought international protection.


The treaties also say that asylum-seekers can be deported to their respective home countries if:

  1.   Their identity is unknown
  2.   They are criminals
  3.   They do not need to seek asylum as they are safe in their home countries
  4.   They applied too late
  5.   European society would be put in danger by their presence
  6.   Their application is not in accordance with the Dublin treaties

The EU states decided to create these treaties as a way to eliminate the complications that arose when some refugees tried to apply for asylum in several countries at the same time.

So why are they criticized?

To answer that question we simply have to look at the Mediterranean Sea. As the treaties say that an asylum seeker shall apply for asylum in the country where they are registered, it is clear that many of them would do so in Italy, Spain, Greece and other southern European states – these are closest to Northern Africa and the Near East via maritime routes. However, countries such as Germany, Great Britain and the Nordic countries would not have such problems with refugees because they are not accessible by those transportation methods. I believe that this is an issue for the whole world, obviously including Northern and Central Europe, but Southern European countries are hit harder than most.

On account of the southern European states (like Greece, Italy and to some extent Spain) being in financial trouble, they are unable to handle huge numbers of refugees. In Italy, this has led to  immigration officers declining to register refugees and instead giving them money to take the train to countries like Germany. Here, the Dublin convention has caused a new set of problems.

If it becomes the norm for state officers in the affected countries to send some refugees away, they will likely send away more than really necessary, causing needless suffering. Another worrying aspect for me is that the convention says only refugees in danger of death shall get asylum – so the treaties do not make any provisions for “economic refugees”.

But why do we not care about those, such as West Africans, who die in huge numbers from starvation or disease? I think that we here in Europe overall should take more responsibility for problems in the world that we are often partly responsible for – including economic refugees. I do not see any difference in people dying from starvation and from war!

This would require a huge financial and organizational effort, as the number of asylum-seekers would grow inexorably. But there is no other way to show concern. We simply can not sit here in Europe (especially in Germany), enjoying our lives with smaller problems and lots of luxury products, while others die. Perhaps our quality of life would decrease slightly, but it is a sacrifice all of us have to be willing to make.

Besides, though the treaties recommend some standards for refugee camps to follow, they are observed by all states, so many refugees do not get liveable and dignified conditions. This increases the tendency of the refugees to turn criminal, which in turn results in xenophobia all over Europe (there are several articles about this topic in the United Youth Journalists archive).

So, if I were able to change the Dublin treaties, I would recommend these adjustments:

  1.   We should have a divide refugees between European countries based on how much land, financial capital, and organizational force they have.
  2.   If one country has more land and the other country has more financial capital, why not organize it so that the one country pays for the refugee camps located in the other? (We have this situation here in Germany between the federal states – Hamburg has more financial capital than Thuringia, but no spaces for refugee camps left, Thuringia has more spaces but less capital – I think it is obvious what to do.)
  3.   We should gradually open the gates to economic refugees.
  4.   There should be more developmental aid, supported by companies that do business in the EU, and have harmed the economy in less economically developed countries (I think that that would result in a decrease of the number of refugees).
  5.   We should have rules rather than recommendations for standards in refugee camps, to be enforced by the state.

Maybe I am an idealist to support plans that do not look conceivable, but I think we should at least talk about these ideas in public. We do have a financial crisis in Europe at the moment. We do not know whether these ideas will work, but we know for certain the the Dublin treaties don’t work in today’s world. That is why we must discuss the changes that can be made.

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