A study by the Jesuit Refugee Service, based on interviews with 257 asylum seekers, shows that over half knew little or nothing about Dublin procedures, which limited their ability to challenge their transfer to another country. The research finds that detainees are much less informed about Dublin procedures than non-detainees are, have less access to lawyers, and are less likely to actually appeal a Dublin decision.
According to JRS, detention seems to be ordered arbitrarily for people who are merely in a Dublin procedure, and not based on a systematic assessment of risks to public security or their risk of absconding. Speaking at the conference marking the release of the report, Ibrahim Banaytu, an Eritrean refugee living in Belgium said: “The only difference between prisons and detention centres is that criminals know when they’re going to be released.”
In her keynote speech, MEP Cecilia Wikström underlined that in the new Dublin Regulation to be adopted next week, governments will only be able to detain people if there is a significant risk of absconding and it will not be possible to detain asylum seekers solely because they are in the Dublin procedure.
All panellists agreed on the importance of improved monitoring on how EU asylum legislation is implemented in practice. Stephen Ryan, Deputy Head of the asylum unit in the European Commission, said: “We haven’t focused enough on monitoring in the first phase of the Common European Asylum System, but we aim to do that now for the new Dublin III Regulation, and we have the European Asylum Support Office to assist us.”
However, Ryan did not agree with JRS Europe’s recommendation that the Commission should develop benchmarks to temporarily suspend transfers of asylum seekers to certain Member States, arguing that this method could be too rigid. Heiko Habbe of JRS Germany recounted that some courts in Germany have prevented the return of asylum seekers back to Italy under the Dublin Regulation, while other Courts allow the practice.
Ana Fontal, Senior Press and Public Information Officer at ECRE, highlighted some of the findings of the comparative study Lives on Hold published earlier this year by Forum Réfugiés – Cosi, ECRE, and the Hungarian Helsinki Committee. The report revealed the harsh consequences of the Dublin system for asylum seekers whereby they don’t have full access to their rights, and some are arbitrarily detained. Furthermore, ECRE underlined that despite indications of inefficiencies in the Dublin system, such as some EU Member States trying to transfer equal numbers of asylum seekers between themselves, no comprehensive data on the financial cost of applying the Dublin Regulation has ever been published.
According to JRS, people will continue their search for protection if the country they arrive in does not adequately provide it. People are also keen to go where their family are. Among the interviewees who said they had family present somewhere in the EU, 64% said the Dublin system negatively impacted their family.