Yesterday we raised in Parliament the issue of the EU’s wish to abolish the Dublin convention. Anne Main MP asked an Urgent Question of the government. We wanted to know how asylum claims would be handled under the revised law the EU is discussing.
The Dublin Convention states that the first country receiving an asylum seeker in the EU should normally handle the asylum claim. The idea was to work with national authorities rather than overriding them all the time. Now the EU thinks that it ought to introduce a system of burden sharing, where the states most likely to receive asylum seekers – Greece, Italy, Spain etc – can require other member states to take a quota or share of the new arrivals and to process their asylum requests and offer those successful a home.
The Minister explained that the UK could opt out of this new arrangement, though he fell short of promising the UK definitely would opt out. He said the UK would still work under the Dublin approach, and regard its duty as being to handle asylum requests only from people arriving first in the UK, or people with family connections. He saw that if the EU abolishes the Dublin Convention to replace it with a quota system then the new EU law will somehow have to keep the Dublin approach just for the UK. He seemed to think that would be the case. We will need to see the language of the proposals as the negotiations develop. It would make the new law more complex.
It is all a timely reminder of just how fluid fundamental matters are in the EU. The UK supports the Dublin rules, but does not seem to think it can stop major revision to the system. Once again the UK will be fighting from the sidelines for special treatment. Ahead of the referendum the rest of the EU will doubtless allow the Uk to imply nothing need change in our arrangements. But what would happen if we voted to stay in? The other countries probably think the Uk should do more and should help them in their hour of need by accepting a substantial quota under the new rules they are designing.
I asked the Minister about the extracts I published from EU documents yesterday on the question of the Turkish borders. I did not get an answer to my queries within the reply of the Minister. .