The impact of the Dublin II Regulation on Greece

One of the main reasons that parties like the Golden Dawn in Greece have found fertile ground to spread is, unsurprisingly, the economic crisis. But it is not the only one. Illegal immigration into Europe puts a strain on our societies' fabric as people see their neighborhoods transform rapidly.

In Athens for example, illegal immigrants are wandering without a purpose, often being forced to work illegally or engage in criminal activities to make a living. Because of that, the locals are not very welcoming towards them.

It is not just the fact that the demographics of the society are changing fast, there is also a case of lawlessness and corruption, whenever people and their future are kept in limbo. The Greek state's policies on immigration are to be blamed of course, but they are not the only cause of the problem.

The Dublin Regulation (or Dublin II Regulation) was adopted in 2003 by the EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, replacing the previous Dublin Convention of the 90s. The regulation came into effect in 2008 and since then it is the topic of endless criticism.

It determines which EU Member state is responsible for the examination of applications  from asylum seekers seeking international protection within the EU under the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directive. It is the cornerstone of the Dublin System, which consists of the Dublin Regulation and the EURODAC Regulation, which establishes a Europe-wide fingerprinting database for unauthorised entrants to the EU.

Usually, the responsible Member State will be the state through which the asylum seeker first entered the EU. And that is where the first problem lies. Immigrants that enter one state do not necessarily want to stay there, and rather are trying to reach the richer countries of Europe. By forcing them to remain in the bordering states, which in many cases are also "peripheral" economies, you condemn them immediately to an uncertain future.

The vast majority of illegal immigrants or asylum seekers enter Europe through countries like Greece, Malta, Italy and Spain. Some of them are too small (Malta), or economically too weak at the moment (Greece) to deal with the sheer numbers of immigrants on their own.

So instead of a pan-European reaction to the problem, and the formation of a common European immigration policy, our governments chose to create hurdles for the unwanted immigrants and more bureaucracy to manage their flow.

But they also make it very difficult for countries on the borders of Europe to deal with the problem, plus they criticize them for any failure or mishandling. One of the principal aims of the Dublin Regulation is to prevent an applicant from submitting applications in multiple Member States. Another aim is to reduce the number of "orbiting" asylum seekers, who are shuttled from member state to member state.

However, since the country that a person first arrived to is responsible for dealing with the application, this puts excessive pressure on border areas, where states are often least able to offer asylum seekers support and protection. Currently, those being transferred under Dublin are not always able to access an asylum procedure. This puts people at risk of being returned to persecution.

Greece receives hundreds of thousands immigrants (both legal and illegal) and asylum seekers per year. A small debt ridden country, with borders that are  mostly vast sea areas and hence difficult to guard, is forced to provide for all the immigrants while filtering them before they reach the richer countries.

Athens has been transformed by its immigrant population and not always for the better. Immigrant gang groups are roaming the city, sometimes turning against each other and so knife crimes are not unusual. Prostitution is everywhere in the city center and with it, all the unwelcome issues of human trafficking, exploitation, violence and corruption.

For a small and (until recently) conservative country like Greece, this problem, combined with an economic crisis and depression, is enough to trigger a rise in nationalism and xenophobia. Violence turned from between the immigrant groups to local people against all the immigrants in general, either legal or illegal.

According to the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the current system fails in providing fair, efficient and effective protection. It has been demonstrated on a number of occasions both by the ECRE and the UNHCR that the regulation threatens the legal rights and personal welfare of asylum seekers, including the right to a fair examination of their asylum claim and, where recognized, the right to effective protection, as well as the uneven distribution of asylum claims among Member States.

The application of this regulation can seriously delay the presentation of claims, and can result in claims never being heard. Causes for concern include the use of detention to enforce transfers of asylum seekers from the state where they apply to the state deemed responsible, also known as Dublin transfers, the separation of families and the denial of the opportunity to appeal against transfers.

The Dublin system also increases pressures on the external border regions of the EU, where the majority of asylum seekers enter EU and where states are often least able to offer asylum seekers support and protection. (as on Wikipedia).

In other words, this system is unfair to both to the immigrants and the bordering countries. But instead of help, our European partners only offer us with their "constructive" criticism on how we deal with immigrants.

There is no denial that the Greek policies on immigration are almost non-existent and of course they are dysfunctional. But so are Europe's. Our partners enter a blame game instead of taking responsibility and acting on the issue collectively, helping the bordering nations to deal with illegal immigration and asylum seekers.

They prefer to sustain their own "functioning" immigration policies and control their immigrant population, while the social coherence and stability of their partners are being put under extreme pressure. The bordering countries are acting like filters for the unwanted, plus they take all the blame for any failures. Sounds like the perfect plan!

The fortunes of the people who want a better life on our continent are colliding with the ability of Europe to offer solutions both to and to the native population. Be it about jobs, security, peace, progress, stability or prosperity, Europe's policies lack the collective agreement needed, vision and fairness. It appears as no surprise that our continent is in crisis, but not just an economic one.