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UK keeps beneficial asylum rules in EU reform plan

by Luke Lythgoe | 04.05.2016

The European Commission has confirmed that Britain can opt out of proposed reforms to the Dublin asylum rules and even keep sending asylum seekers back to their first point of EU entry. The possibility that this system might be scrapped caused outrage among eurosceptics when the planned asylum overhaul became public knowledge in January.

Their fears appear to be unfounded.

A press release from the Commission confirmed: “The United Kingdom is not affected by the present reform unless it chooses to be, by deciding to opt in. Unless it opts in, the United Kingdom may continue to apply the existing Dublin regulation as it operates today, in line with the Treaties.” The proposal will now be sent to the European Parliament and Council of Ministers for review and approval.

The UK benefits from the current Dublin arrangement because it is geographically distant from the usual Mediterranean entry points for seekers of asylum in the EU. Since 2003 the UK has sent back 12,000 asylum seekers under the rules.

It was feared the Dublin reforms, which include a mechanism for relocating migrants across the EU, would present the UK with an unwelcome choice: sign up for some relocation and keep the first point of entry principle, or opt-out of the new Dublin rules and lose the ability to send any asylum seekers back to their first point of entry. Some reports had even suggested that the first-point-of-entry principle might be scrapped altogether as part of the Commission’s review.

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    Whether you believe the UK should be taking its share of asylum seekers during the migration crisis or not, this is a prime example of how favourable some of Britain’s arrangements with the EU are. The UK regularly exercises its opt-outs in asylum and justice and home affairs policy, while cherry-picking policies that suit national interests. It also benefits from opt-outs from the border-free Schengen Area or the euro. Only Ireland and Denmark enjoy anywhere near this flexibility.

    The Dublin reforms are likely to prove more controversial in member states with less advantageous arrangements. The Commission proposes that refugees seeking asylum in frontline states can be reallocated to other member countries, though only if migration exceeds ‘proportionate’ levels – calculated by looking at total EU migration and at the host country’s size and wealth – by 50%.

    Assuming Britain, Ireland and Denmark exercise their opt-outs, the 24 other member states must then take their share of the relocation. If a country refuses, it will have to pay a “financial solidarity contribution” of €250,000 for each asylum seeker to the EU country that agrees to take them instead.

    Edited by Geert Linnebank

    One Response to “UK keeps beneficial asylum rules in EU reform plan”

    • Yet again we are voting to remain in a club where our membership is defined by our exemptions from its rules. Every time someone suggests a new rule, we make no effort to see if it can be made to work, we just opt out. We are one they are twenty seven. If I were the 27 why would I agree to one rule for us while this ever recalcitrant 28th member refuses to play?

      Like the treaties on the application of National Insurance Retirement Pension increases, it cuts both ways. We increase our nationals’ pensions if they live in EU member states and they increase theirs for their nationals that live here.

      If everyone takes a share of the refugees, the burden is smoothed for the 27 as well as us. The ones they take are not here. Regrettably I suspect that, if we vote to remain, they will get sick of us and throw us out before they implement the terms on which we agreed to stay from the February EU Council decisions.

      What is wrong with the asylum rules is not the Dublin convention. It is that we are being too generous overall in what constitutes a refugee. The “unaccompanied” minors currently in safe EU countries will now be let in and how many family reunion claims will show how “unaccompanied” they actually were while they occupy school places our own citizens cannot obtain. It was their parents that left them “unaccompanied” at enormous expense paid to traffickers. What was their duty? How much will they pay us?