Select Committee on Home Affairs First Report



139.   The text of the Dublin Convention states that its purpose is:

    "To ensure that applicants for asylum are not referred successively from one Member State to another without any of these States acknowledging itself to be competent to examine the application for asylum."

140.  Under the terms of the Convention asylum may only be claimed in one Member State, and rules establish which country is responsible for an asylum seeker. These are set out in Articles 4 to 8 of the Convention, and in simple terms we understand that they are applied in this way:

  • Does the asylum seeker have a spouse or a child (or a parent in the case of asylum seekers under 18) residing in another Member State with "refugee status" within the meaning of the Geneva Convention? If so, the individual is the responsibility of that Member State. If not:

  • Has another Member State issued the asylum seeker with either a valid residence permit or a valid visa? If so (subject to various other rules), the individual is the responsibility of that issuing State. If not:

  • Can it be proved that another Member State was the asylum seeker's point of illegal entry into EU territory? If so, that State is responsible for the application, unless the applicant makes an asylum application in another Member State and can prove residence there for at least six months. If not:

  • Has the asylum seeker legally entered a Member State for which he or she needs no visa, and then travelled to a second member State also not requiring the applicant to hold a visa? In these circumstances responsibility for the asylum claim will rest with the latter State. If not:

  •    If no Member State has been found to be responsible for the examination of the applicant's asylum application based on the criteria laid out above, then the first Member State in which the application for asylum is lodged is responsible for examining it.

  • In addition to the above criteria, Article 3(4) provides that each Member State has the right to examine an application, even if it is not responsible under the general criteria provided that the applicant agrees. Article 9 provides that any Member State may for humanitarian reasons, based in particular on family or cultural grounds, examine an application at the request of another Member State with the consent of the applicant.

The Dublin Convention ...establishes a comprehensive set of rules for determining the state responsible for examining asylum applications lodged in one of the Member States. Its main rationale is to prevent multiple applications for asylum in several Member States, simultaneously or successively, and an uncontrolled circulation of asylum seekers within the European Union. The Convention set out the criteria for determining the Member State responsible for examining asylum application (place of application, family links, issuing of visa or residence permit, special ties with the applicant or humanitarian reasons) and establishes a number of obligations of the responsible Member State in taking charge of an applicant, examining the application and the expulsion of asylum seekers refused status. ... It means, in fact, that an asylum seeker will normally only have one chance to apply for asylum in the entire EU and that, if he is rejected by the responsible Member State, the entire EU—not only the respective Member State—will normally become a 'no go' zone for this person. Professor J Monar in Justice and Home Affairs A Wider Europe for ESRC July 2000

141.  Five out of six people who apply for asylum in the EU do so in a country other than the UK.[110] The EU has adopted procedures for determining the state responsible for examining an asylum claim lodged in a Member State. The Dublin Convention, which sets out these procedures was signed in 1990 and entered into force in September 1997. As Mr Boys Smith, Director General of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate told us, although the UK was a "major exporter" of asylum claimants under the Dublin Convention, "it has not fulfilled the ambitions that were held at the time it was inaugurated . . . it is a rather slow business in individual cases, and we wish it were quicker and slicker".[111] Appearing before the Committee in October 1999, the Home Secretary told us that rulings on the interpretation of the 1951 Convention made by the UK courts had not helped the Government's drive for enforcement of the Dublin provisions.[112] The Home Office memorandum stated that "protracted disputes about other Member States' approaches to the [1951] Refugee Convention are undermining the Dublin Convention and leaving asylum procedures open to abuse".[113]

142.   The Home Secretary told us about the Dublin Convention:

    "You are in very good company if you do not fully understand the operation of the Dublin Convention. The important thing to say about it is that although it was agreed in 1990, it was drafted some years before that, before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, when the circumstances about asylum were completely different. It is one of these things that was on the track".[114]

    "This Dublin process is fairly bureaucratic, and it is of huge regret that the previous administration did not see this coming and was ready to abandon the better working bilateral gentleman's agreement between France and Belgium, which ended in 1997. As I say, they were not perfect, they were not fully comprehensive, but they were better".[115]

110  Q 505 (Home Secretary). Back

111  Q 125. Back

112  Minutes of Evidence, 26 October 1999, HC (1998-99) 857-i, Q 84. Back

113  Appendix 1, para. 16.10. Back

114  Q 473 (Home Secretary). Back

115  Q 481 (Home Secretary). Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 31 January 2001