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Which Member State is responsible

Update: April 2006

Determining responsibility for examining an asylum application in the European Union – Dublin Regulation

On 18 February 2003, the EU Council of Ministers adopted a regulation (343/2003/EC) establishing a series of criteria which, in general, allocate responsibility for examining an asylum application to the Member State that permitted the applicant to enter or to reside in the territories of the Member States of the European Union. That Member State is responsible for examining the application according to its national law and is obliged to take back its applicants who are irregularly in another Member State.

"This page of the Sub-Section related to the European Asylum policy gives a general presentation in two parts:
Part I covers the latest developments which occurred within the recent years.
Part II gives a general view of the accomplishments and the acquis at European level of the matter concerned."

I) Latest developments (under The Hague Programme – 5 November 2004)

  • Denmark, which due to its protocol annexed to the Treaty is not participating in visa, immigration and asylum matters, recently negotiated with the Commission, acting on behalf of the Community, an agreement extending to it the application of the Dublin and EURODAC Regulations and their implementing rules. This agreement, which the Council concluded on 21 February 2006, entered into force on 1 April 2006, the notifications concerning the completion of the procedures in accordance with Article 11 of the Agreement having been carried out on 23 February 2006.
  • An evaluation of the functioning of the system for allocating responsibility for the examination of asylum requests (Dublin Regulation) will be presented by the Commission in 2006. This is requested by article 28 of the Regulation.

II) General context

In an area without internal borders in which free movement of persons is guaranteed , the European Union established in 1997 a flanking measure by creating a set of rules to determine which Member State in the Union will examine an application for asylum lodged by a third country national in one of the member States, known as the Dublin Convention. This was necessary to avoid situations where refugees were shuttled from one Member State to another, with none accepting responsibility, or to prevent multiple or simultaneous applications.

With the advent of the Treaty of Amsterdam in 1999, the legal basis and procedure for asylum policy was altered. A new Community legal instrument was therefore necessary. This is why the European Commission draw up a Community legislative proposal for examining asylum applications lodged in a Member State of the EU. On that basis, the Council adopted a new Community legal instrument (a Regulation of the Council) on 18 February 2003, after consultation of the European Parliament. This is known as the ‘Dublin Regulation’ and replaces the ‘Dublin Convention’.

Like the convention, the purpose of the regulation is to avoid situations of 'refugees in orbit' by allocating responsibility to a Member State for examining an asylum application. This would also prevent asylum applicants being left in doubt for too long about the outcome of their application.

Under the regulation, Member States agree:

  • to effectively examine the application of any alien, for which they are responsible in accordance with a set of – hierarchical - criteria
  • to attribute responsibility for examining an asylum application to the Member State which played the most important part in the applicant's entry or residence in the Union (exceptions apply);
  • that the Member State responsible will take charge of the applicant throughout this period and take back an applicant who is illegally in another Member State.

The 10 new Member States apply the Dublin Regulation since their accession on 1 May 2004.

In January 2001, the European Community signed an Agreement with Norway and Iceland extending to these states the application of the Dublin Convention. In accordance with this agreement, Norway and Island now apply the Dublin regulation.

Switzerland also requested to take part to the Dublin and EURODAC Regulations. On 26 October 2004, an agreement between the European Community and the Swiss Confederation was signed. By reason of this, certain provisions of the agreement are now provisionally applied. However, it is to be noted that by the terms of the agreement, neither the Dublin Regulation nor the EURODAC regulation will be applicable to Switzerland until the application of the Schengen acquis by Switzerland has been positively evaluated. This could happen in 2007 or 2008. Switzerland held referenda on these issues in June and September 2005. Swiss citizens voted in favour of applying Dublin and Eurodac.

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