Press release on World Refugee Day

In just under two weeks, Germany will take over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union for six months. As the Presidency, the Federal Republic will lay down guidelines for action and represent the Council vis-à-vis other EU institutions, third countries and international organizations. This will also play a decisive role for future migration policy. Accordingly, the focus will be above all on the future reception and distribution of refugees within the EU. 

I. Little progress towards a comprehensive reform of asylum legislation

The reform of European asylum law has made only slow progress for several years. Ursula von der Leyen, the current head of the European Commission, announced at the beginning of her term of office that the "Common European Asylum System" (CEAS) would be comprehensively revised. However, delays have occurred due to the Corona Pandemic. 

In mid-April, the interior ministers of Germany, France, Spain and Italy proposed a compromise on the controversial issues: in a paper to the Commission, the states call for a binding mechanism for the fair distribution of refugees according to certain criteria. The desired European asylum reform must reflect the "principle of solidarity and shared responsibility". In exceptional cases, however, member states should be able to "resort to solidarity measures other than distribution". One example would be financial support for the care of asylum seekers. This compromise is primarily aimed at member states such as Poland or Hungary, which currently refuse to accept refugees. 

II. So far no binding allocation key

According to the Dublin Convention, which is still in force, the country in which asylum seekers first enter European territory is normally responsible for the asylum application. The original purpose of this regulation was to ensure that asylum applications are only made in one member state and that no country is responsible for the asylum procedure and that asylum seekers are not "moved on" between states ("no refugees in orbit"). Another consequence of this regulation, however, is that Mediterranean states such as Greece, Spain and Italy are particularly burdened, and in recent years they have repeatedly demanded more solidarity from other member states. 

An EU-wide distribution key could have remedied this situation and has been on the table since 2012, but has repeatedly failed to gain the approval of the Council despite corresponding proposals by Parliament and the Commission. Thus, the "right of self-entry", which is also provided for in the Dublin Regulation, remains, allowing EU states on a voluntary basis to deal with asylum applications for which they would not actually be responsible. The GEAS of the future is thus probably still hanging in the air.

III. preliminary checks at the external borders

There is not much movement on other decisions either, such as the discussion on accelerated examination of asylum applications. A concept presented by Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), for example, provides for initial assessments at the EU's external border, whereby "persons who are obviously not in need of protection" are to be sent back to their countries of origin directly at the external border (initial assessment). With regard to legal protection aspects, however, this proposal is viewed critically from some quarters. A Europeanisation of the asylum procedure and the associated greater legal standardisation and legal security would certainly be an alternative and appropriate approach to speeding up the procedure. A glance at Greece alone shows how urgently this is needed: there are still more than a hundred thousand people seeking protection, some of whom are stuck in camps that are completely overcrowded and poorly equipped. Their asylum procedures often take over a year.