Dublin Regulation

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The Dublin Regulation (Regulation 2003/343/EC; sometimes the Dublin II Regulation; previously the Dublin Convention) is a European Union (EU) law that determines the EU Member State responsible to examine an application for asylum seekers seeking international protection under the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directive, within the European Union. It is the cornerstone of the Dublin System, which consists of the Dublin Regulation and the EURODAC Regulation, which establishes a Europe-wide fingerprinting database for unauthorised entrants to the EU. The Dublin Regulation aims to “determine rapidly the Member State responsible [for an asylum claim]”[1] and provides for the transfer of an asylum seeker to that Member State. Usually, the responsible Member State will be the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU.

The Dublin Regulation was adopted in 2003, ostensibly replacing the Dublin Convention. The Dublin Convention was signed in Dublin, Ireland on 15 June 1990, and first came into force on 1 September 1997 for the first twelve signatories (Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom), on 1 October 1997 for Austria and Sweden, and on 1 January 1998 for Finland. Recently, the treaty has been extended to some countries outside the Union, such as Norway and Iceland. Switzerland has become a signatory to the Regulation and on 5 June 2005 voted by 54.6% to ratify it; it came into effect on 12 December 2008.

On 3 December 2008, the European Commission proposed amendments to the Dublin Regulation, creating an opportunity for reform of the Dublin System.[2]

As of the 19th of July 2013 the Dublin III Regulation (No 604/2013) came into force. It is based on the same principle on the previous two i.e. that the first Member State where finger prints are stored or an asylum claim is lodged is responsible for a person's asylum claim.[3]


One of the principal aims of the Dublin Regulation is to prevent an applicant from submitting applications in multiple Member States. Another aim is to reduce the number of "orbiting" asylum seekers, who are shuttled from member state to member state. However since the country that a person first arrived in is responsible for dealing with the application, this puts excessive pressure on border areas, where states are often least able to offer asylum seekers support and protection. Currently, those being transferred under Dublin are not always able to access an asylum procedure. This puts people at risk of being returned to persecution.[4]


According to European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and UNHCR the current system fails in providing fair, efficient and effective protection. It has been demonstrated on a number of occasions both by ECRE[5] and UNHCR,[6] that the regulation impedes the legal rights and personal welfare of asylum seekers, including the right to a fair examination of their asylum claim and, where recognized, to effective protection, as well as the uneven distribution of asylum claims among Member States.

Application of this regulation can seriously delay the presentation of claims, and can result in claims never being heard. Causes of concern include the use of detention to enforce transfers of asylum seekers from the state where they apply to the state deemed responsible, also known as Dublin transfers, the separation of families and the denial of an effective opportunity to appeal against transfers. The Dublin system also increases pressures on the external border regions of the EU, where the majority of asylum seekers enter EU and where states are often least able to offer asylum seekers support and protection.[7]

After ECRE,[8] the UNHCR and other non-governmental organisations openly criticized Greece's asylum system, including the lack of protection and care for unaccompanied children, several countries suspended transfers of asylum seekers to Greece under the Dublin II regulation. Norway announced in February 2008 it would stop transferring any asylum seeker back to Greece under the Dublin II regulation. In September, it backtracked and announced that transfers to Greece would be based on individual assessments.[9] In April 2008 Finland announced a similar move.[10]

The regulation is also criticized by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights as undermining refugee rights.[11]

The European Court of Human Rights in the case M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece, judged on 21 January 2011 that both the Greek and the Belgian governments violated the European Convention on Human Rights when applying the EU law on asylum seekers and were given fines to the tune of some €6,000 and €30,000, respectively.[12][13] Recently, voices have been heard calling for the imposition of tougher sanctions, should similar cases occur in the future.[14]

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