ASYLUM: EVALUATION OF THE
DUBLIN SYSTEM (10517/07)
Letter from Chairman to Liam Byrne MP, Minister
of State, Home Office
Sub-Committee F of the Select Committee on the
European Union considered this report on the evaluation of the
Dublin system at a meeting on 25 July 2007.
The Committee found it difficult to share your
and the Commission's positive assessment of the working of the
Dublin system in the light of the findings. Indeed, it appears
to us that the findings suggest rather that the system has failed
on many accounts:
(i) It has not guaranteed effective access
to asylum determination procedures in at least one Member Statea
circumstance which, as you will know, has led the High Court recently
to rule that provisions of UK immigration law which do not allow
an assessment of the risk to asylum seekers who are being sent
back to another country under the Dublin arrangements are in contravention
of the European Convention on Human Rights (Nasseri v Secretary
of State for the Home Department  EWHC 1548 Admin).
The system plainly cannot operate if there are any Member States
to which asylum seekers should in principle be returned, but to
which they cannot in practice be returned because those States
offer insufficient protection. We would be grateful if you could
let us know whether and if so how this problem is being addressed,
and whether an amendment to the relevant immigration provisions
is to be expected as a consequence of this judgment.
(ii) While the rules allocating responsibility
might work, the low rate of effective transfers of asylum seekers
between the Member States indicates that in most instances this
responsibility is not exercised in practice. This is, by admission
of the Commission itself, a major problem for the efficient operation
of the Dublin system. Member States explain this as being due
to the absconding of asylum seekers to avoid such transfers. However,
given the extensive use of custodial measures, the absconding
may account for only a limited part of the failed transfers. The
Commission's own analysis does not support the view that there
is a correlation between custodial measures and transfer rates.
Could you give us your view as to what other factors might explain
the low transfer rate?
(iii) The annulment of transfers in some
Member States (in particular large users of the Dublin system,
such as Germany) indicates that despite considerable expense (let
alone hardship to individuals who are unwillingly moved), some
Member States end up with more or less the same overall number
of applications to deal with. You object to the Commission's proposal
for bilateral arrangements concerning "annulment" of
the exchange of equal numbers of asylum seekers in well-defined
circumstances on grounds of unfairness towards applicants. However
you may agree that it might at the same time introduce a degree
of fairness into a system which operates in the absence of fully
harmonised asylum rules and therefore can result in different
outcomes of an asylum claim depending on where it is lodged.
(iv) The system does not "strike a balance
between responsibility criteria in a spirit of solidarity"
(see Dublin Regulation, preamble, recital 8) as it operates at
a great disadvantage for Member States at the Eastern and Southern
borders of Europe (Poland, Slovakia, Italy, Greece, Estonia, Hungary,
etc), which are more exposed to migratory pressure. What proposals
are being made to address this imbalance?
(v) On the Commission's own admission, the
increasing rate of multiple applications indicates that the Dublin
System does not have the expected deterrent effect against "asylum
shopping", which as you say is the main political objective
of the system.
It is doubtful whether the Commission proposals,
which amount to tightening time limits and tidying up definitions,
will be sufficient to bring order to a system which, while extremely
resource intensive, clearly is not meeting any of its objectives.
Moreover, the Committee found the lack of estimates regarding
the overall cost of the Dublin system deeply disturbing; they
thought it extraordinary that the Commission saw no need to undertake
a serious cost/benefit analysis, but were content to act on the
assumption that Member States regard fulfilling the political
objectives of the system as very important, "regardless of
the financial implications involved" (Conclusions, p 13).
It cannot be right that we are to accept that taxpayers' money
might simply be wasted.
Finally, we welcome the suggestion in the report
that the Commission will carry out a full impact assessment on
the use of Eurodac data for law enforcement purposes. We expect
this to be submitted along with the legislative proposal on the
police use of Eurodac, which the Council in June asked the Commission
to submit shortly. Given the significance of this measure, we
look forward to an in-depth analysis particularly of the issue
of proportionality and the impact on fundamental rights.
The Committee has decided to keep this document
under scrutiny pending receipt of your views and comments on the
points we have raised above.
26 July 2007