Τετάρτη, 9 Φεβρουαρίου 2011

A major challenge to the Dublin system

A major challenge to the Dublin system: Greece and Belgium condemned for violating refugee's rights
Source: www.euroalter.com
Article and Translation by Mauro Longo


A revolutionary ruling by the European Court of Human Rights may subvert one of the pillars over which the Common European Asylum System is being built. The court condemned Belgium and Greece for violating the rights of an Afghan asylum seeker trying to escape persecution from the Taliban. The young Afghani had eventually made it to Belgium after a long trip through Asia, the Middle East and Greece, where he entered the EU. And where, according to the Dublin regulation, he was supposed to apply for asylum. He nonetheless decided to continue travelling towards Belgium, especially because he was aware of the inhuman reception conditions for asylum seekers in Greece. Once there he submitted his asylum application. The Belgian government rejected it on the ground of EU regulation and sent him back to Greece. Back there, he was first detained in an overcrowded immigration centre and then released with no effective support coming from the Greek welfare system. For this reason, the European Court of Human Rights acknowledged the violation of the right to protection and the exposure to degrading treatment, in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Convention has been included as the forefront of the Treaties of the European Union at Lisbon, which entered into force at the end of 2009. For this reason, the Court not only condemned Greece for the shortcomings of the asylum procedures and for the inadequate reception standards, but also condemned Belgium for obligingly ignoring those inadequacies (even if complying with the European legislation).


The ruling has been acclaimed as a big step forward by the organisations working on the protection of refugees rights. The UN High Commissioner Antonio Guterres praised the Court for its ability of “standing above the whims of the pubic opinion”. The ruling underlines the limits of the Common European Asylum System, Guterres argues. The European Court of Human Rights, being the busiest court worldwide, testifies to the fact that a long road is still ahead in order to reach an effective common asylum system offering effective remedy to those in need. Bjarte Vandvik, Secretary General of ECRE (the European network of NGOs dealing with refugee protection), welcomed the ruling for the “major blow [it imposes] to the Dublin System”, opposed by ECRE since its very introduction. Vandvik argues that many European states try to avoid their duty to assist, welcome and offer a shelter, declining their responsibilities on other states. Furthermore, the obligation to submit the asylum application in the first EU member state they enter heavily increases pressure on countries on the EU’s external borders. These countries often have sub-standard reception systems for asylum seekers, while asylum seekers in turn are denied the opportunity to take advantage of any existing links or networks they might have in other countries (and that are often pivotal for the future integration of the refugee).

The Court ruling is actually undermining the whole Common European Asylum System. There are more than 960 pending appeals at the Court in Strasbourg, while over 7.000 asylum seekers entered the EU through Greece in 2010. Various Member States had immediately suspended forced removals of asylum seekers towards Greece. Considering the figures and the precedent set by the Court, it seems that the European Commission will be forced to entirely review the Common European Asylum System, and ultimately design it as an effective system to protect displaced people looking for refuge.

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