Timothy Kirkhope MEP (ECR, UK) provides an insightful article about the Dublin system and the relocation of asylum seekers in the context of the EU migrant crisis

I was relieved earlier this month to see that the European Commission had decided to keep in place in their revision of the Dublin System the basic principles regarding the reception of Asylum seekers. Now is certainly not the time for the EU to be going against those long standing international principles which say that the first safe country reached, should be the place where asylum is requested, and as a result of pressure from me and others this key requirement has been retained. Hopefully this is an indication that the European Commission is listening to member states, and listening to the wider European and British electorate through their elected representatives as they tell us that they don’t want an EU centralised system for all asylum applications.

It is my opinion that such a system, if adopted, would only fuel human trafficking, and would lead to a total breakdown of the EU’s cross-State co-operation. Obligatory Relocation of Refugees does not work, and I have always had real concerns about such a proposal. Both EU governments and MEPs have acknowledged that our experiment with emergency relocation so far has not be a success; now the Commission needs to accept this and realise that there is no point in further pursuing it.

The proposal this time is that a relocation mechanism would contain a penalty system for member states who chose not to take in refugees through the scheme, amounting to no less than 250,000 euros per person. The Commission must realise that such a disproportionate sum is like a punishment to member states, rather than a credible and attractive alternative for participating in relocation. The EU needs policies which will unite the EU, not create a permanent gulf between the institutions and member states.

Instead, we should be looking at other ways in which countries can contribute to the migrant crisis; by sharing assets, expertise, and money and most critically through the implementation of voluntary resettlement schemes.

The UK and Prime Minister Cameron led the way in calling for resettlement rather than relocation last year, resettling approximately 1,000 of the most vulnerable refugees directly from UN camps by December. Of course, resettlement alone is not the answer, but the UK’s contribution to resettlement schemes together with significant direct Foreign aid cannot be questioned and should be more recognised by the commission.

The UK has repeatedly made it clear that it will never be part of any compulsory relocation scheme, but it was reassuring that the European Commission clarified that the UK is entitled to continue participating in the Dublin provisions under its existing legal arrangements, but, of course, we remain in possession of our broad opt-out in the field of Immigration generally and outside of the Schengen open borders zone.

Although we have been highlighting domestic concerns, the UK is by no means alone in its concerns over relocation and I am hopeful that a more acceptable solution can soon be found with the assistance of our European friends.

It would be surely senseless to continue pursuing a relocation system that has already proven ineffective? For instance, of the 160,000 refugees who were eligible for relocation under the current scheme, only 1,145 refugees have so far been relocated to other EU countries – this is little more than the UK alone was able to accept through the alternative resettlement process in a matter of months.

But I am pleased with the proposals that once an asylum application has been made the applicant must remain in the State handling the claim unless ordered otherwise. The rights of unaccompanied children have been recognised and strengthened and this must be a sensible course. The clarity indicating that those who do not have an admissible claim because they come from a first country of asylum or a safe third country will be returned automatically to that first or safe country is also most welcome and will have the effect if strictly pursued of lessening the movements of people around the EU. Shortening the time limits for the processing procedures is also a good thing as it will bring faster decisions on individuals applications. Speeding up the processes with adequate legal safeguards is very necessary, in my opinion.

Under pressure there is always a temptation to find completely new approaches but with solidarity at stretching point, as it is now, the Commission has been right to keep in place most of the basic Dublin principles.

I hope this is a big step forward in gaining back the trust and confidence of the British and European electorates and the start of finding our way out of this Migrant crisis.