Dublin asylum rules reform is not EU blackmail

by Luke Lythgoe | 25.01.2016

Reports that the European Union could propose scrapping as early as March the ‘first country of entry’ asylum principle known as the ‘Dublin Regulation’, sparked outrage across British media. In an article in The Daily Mail on Thursday Jan 21, Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan called the move a “blackmail threat” to force Britain to join the EU’s “scheme for sharing out migrants and refugees”.

Hannan argues: “If Britain doesn’t agree to take migrants from other EU countries, it will no longer be able to return illegal entrants to the ‘first country of entry’. Migrants will, in effect, be waved through to Dover.”

The current Dublin regulation favours northern European nations by allowing them to send asylum seekers back to the country in which they arrived in the EU – currently Southern European countries such as Italy and Greece are seeing the largest number of new arrivals. If this policy was fundamentally reformed, Britain’s real choice will be between any new policy agreed at EU level – possibly a migrant quota – or to opt out, in which case the asylum law will revert back to the UN Convention on Refugees. That would mean that the UK would have to process any asylum-seekers who arrived here rather than being able to send them back to another EU country.

Until a detailed formula emerges, the number of refugees potentially arriving in Britain under a migrant quota cannot be calculated. The Telegraph suggests a migrant quota could result in Britain receiving 90,000 refugees. Whether exaggerated or not, this figure dwarfs the 12,000 asylum seekers we’ve been able to return to other European countries, since Dublin started in 2003 (roughly 1,000 per year). This is a drop in the ocean compared to net migration to Britain of 336,000 last year. If Brussels really wanted to blackmail Britain into taking more refugees, overhauling Dublin does not offer much leverage.

Hannan’s claim of “migrants waved through to Dover” could hold water, if, hypothetically, France takes such umbrage at Britain’s opt out they scrap the bilateral agreement to keep prospective migrants in Calais (see 1.1).  However, he fails to mention previous comments by French politicians suggesting Brexit could have the same result – effectively pulling back UK border control from Calais.

In response to a request by InFacts for comment, Hannan wrote: “Quod scripsi scripsi”, the Latin for what I wrote, I wrote. This expression was famously used by Pontius Pilate in the Bible when Jewish priests objected to the inscription “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” on the sign hung above Jesus at his crucifixion.

This article was previously published on 22 Jan. 2016 on hugo-dixon.com

Edited by Yojana Sharma

This post has been updated after Hannan responded to our request for comment, Hugo Dixon, InFacts Editor-in-Chief