Four months ago, a 20-metre long fishing boat carrying more than 500 migrants from Libya sank near Lampedusa, an island of the coast of Italy. More than 360 people died before the rescue services could reach them. Although many were shocked that such a tragedy could occur at the frontiers of Europe, at least the incident sparked a hope that the EU would change its asylum policy. However, the opposite has been done.
In the 1999 Amsterdam Treaty, the member states of the EU agreed to harmonize their asylum policies. This eventually lead to the adoption of the Dublin regulation in 2003, which today is one of the fundamental pillars of the EUs asylum policy. This law determines that the country in which a refugee first sets foot is responsible for handling the application of this asylum seeker. While the Dublin regulation supposedly “enhances the protection of asylum seekers”, in reality it is fundamentally flawed and in urgent need of reform.
The Dublin regulation has created an uneven distribution of refugees across the Union. The vast majority of migrants enter the EU through three countries: Greece, Italy and Spain (see infographic by CNN ). However, none of these countries has the infrastructure to ensure the adequate protection of these refugees. All of these countries, especially Spain and Greece, are struggling with the economic crisis, leaving insufficient funds to reform its facilities for the protection of migrants. As a consequence, asylum seekers are detained in overcrowded camps and border patrols do not have the means to rescue migrants in distress, which leaved them unable to prevent the Lampedusa tradegy, which happened only quarter of a mile from Italian coast. Especially the situation of Syrian refugees is alarming: in 2012, Greece arrested 8.000 immigrants attempting to enter the country. In the same year, only two Syrians were granted asylum in Greece.
Especially the situation of Syrian refugees is alarming.
Instead of reforming its flawed asylum policy, the EU has now made matters worse. On the 16th of December, 2013, the EU and Turkey signed a visa liberalization agreements allowing the European member states to send back migrants that entered the Union from Turkey. While it may seem like a good move for Turkey, the agreement is disastrous for refugees. As Piril Erçoban of the Turkish refugee organization Mülteci-Der puts it: “The readmission agreement is a disaster, no one here know where to put the refugees.” While to EU calls for solidarity concerning asylum policies, its actions only create disparity. It seems strange for the member states of the Union to cling on to a boat that is already sinking. The Dublin regulation needs reform, or the situation will only worsen.