Understanding Migration and Asylum in the European Union

Asylum seekers have no legal duty to claim asylum in the first EU state they reach, and many move on, seeking to join relatives or friends for support, or to reach a country with a functioning asylum system. However, the “Dublin” regulation stipulates that EU member states can choose to return asylum seekers to their country of first entry to process their asylum claim, so long as that country has an effective asylum system.

EU countries in the north, the desired destination of many “refugees”, have sought to use this Dublin system to their advantage, at the “expense” of the south, where most “refugees” first arrive. Yet these efforts have been obstructed by failures of asylum systems in the south. Domestic and European courts have ruled against asylum seekers being returned to Greece, notably in a landmark case in 2011 that found Belgium in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights for exposing an Afghan national to detention, harsh living conditions, and risks arising from shortcomings in Greece’s asylum system after a return.


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