Academic journal article Insight Turkey

The Uncertain Role of the EU Countries in the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Academic journal article Insight Turkey

The Uncertain Role of the EU Countries in the Syrian Refugee Crisis

Article excerpt

Common Asylum and Migration Policy of the EU

The common asylum and migration policy of the EU can be in general traced back to the 1950s when the EC (European Community) member states adopted the Geneva Convention of 1951 on the Status of Refugees, which defined the basic rules and principles of refugee protection. The efforts to embrace a common approach to asylum and migration policy were first reflected in the Schengen agreement signed by five of the ten member states of the EC in 1985, which provided for the removal of internal borders among Schengen member states. Creation of the borderless Schengen area was facilitated by the fact that the EC as such was at the time, when the agreement was adopted, much smaller and therefore much more flexible and easier to manage than the current EU-28. The EU accepted the Dublin convention of 1990 as a part of the Schengen system which provided for the basis of the common asylum policy. The EU common asylum policy was further modified in the Dublin II Regulation of 2003 and the EURODAC Regulation, which established an all-EU database of fingerprints of asylum seekers and refugees entering the EU. (2)

The Dublin Regulations are particularly important in the contemporary Syrian refugee crisis, as they stipulate that the asylum seekers should apply for asylum in the first country of entry to the EU, and if they are detained in another EU country they should be returned to the first country of entry. This country should take care of the asylum seekers including processing of asylum applications. (3) This provision of the Dublin regulations thus puts enormous pressure on the EU border states, such as Italy, Greece or Bulgaria, as they are the ones that should be in accordance with this regulation dealing with the majority of asylum seekers and refugees. These states therefore tend to protect their external borders with the non-EU member states to secure a reduction in the number of asylum seekers and refugees entering their territories. Various EU member states frequently adopt restrictive policies aimed at banning illegal immigration and make it more difficult for asylum seekers and refugees to settle in these countries, (4) some of them also plainly reject a high number of the asylum applications. According to the Eurostat statistics, some countries such as Estonia, Lithuania and Portugal declined all of the asylum applications in 2015, while "Latvia, Hungary and Poland recorded first instance rejection rates above 80%." (5)

The EU established the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in 2010, in view of these national efforts to fight the rising number of asylum seekers and refugees in the EU and to promote implementation of the common European asylum system. (6) The EASO created a new Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF), which partially took over the functions of the European Refugee Fund (ERF), which was a tool designed to enable sharing of the costs of refugee burden within the EU and which was allocated 630 million Euros in 2008-13. (7) The AMIF is designed to distribute a total of 3.137 billion Euros in 2014-20 to support the management of asylum and refugee flows within the EU and to promote the common asylum and immigration policy of the EU. (8) Its specific objectives include support of the Common European Asylum System by application of uniform EU legislation in the field of asylum and refugee policy, support of legal migration and integration in the EU countries, as well as effective return strategies, fighting illegal migration, and funding activities of the European Migration Network. A specific condition of the AMIF is the solidarity within the EU countries to fairly participate in bearing the burden of the common asylum policy of the EU, "making sure that EU States which are most affected by migration and asylum flows can count on solidarity from other EU States." (9)

Other efforts to strengthen the common asylum policy of the EU included revisions and changes in the common asylum policy to improve the so called "Dublin system. …

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