On the night of September 6, a fire ravaged the largest refugee camp in Europe. The Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, housed 12,700 people, four times its maximum capacity. The humanitarian tragedy prompted the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, to hasten the presentation of the New Pact on Migration.
The Pact had been expected for months and had been postponed due to the pandemic. It proposes a new European system of governance of migration, with a new "strong solidarity mechanism", allowing for a better distribution and care of refugees and asylum seekers within the European Union.
With this new Pact, Europe's ambition is to leave behind several years of discussions that were as superficial as they were futile, and which have led to the mistreatment of asylum seekers. In particular, this new Pact proposes the abolition of the Dublin Regulation, a mechanism that places the responsibility of processing asylum applications on the first EU country through which the asylum seeker enters European soil. This procedure has long left the Southern European countries of Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta on the front line.
But five years after the 2015 refugee crisis, the issue of the reception of asylum seekers remains a highly divisive subject within the EU. In order to reform the Dublin system and overcome the current divisions, we must first recall that the examination of asylum applications must remain separate from the management of refugee flows. Asylum is a fundamental right guaranteed by an international treaty, the Geneva Convention. It is subject to an individual examination sanctioned by a judge and as such, it is not part of European migration policies, strictly speaking.
An inefficient and unjust system
In October 2018, Institut Montaigne and Terra Nova called for a recasting of the European asylum policy, after having identified the dysfunctions inherent to the Dublin Regulation. Dublin has indeed proved to be unjust, inefficient and inhumane.
It is unjust, because it places the bulk of the burden of registration, initial reception and management of applications on countries located on the main routes used by asylum seekers.
It is ineffective, since many of these countries, already reluctant to make the disproportionate efforts imposed on them, have little material and administrative means to carry out these missions. The injustice and inefficiency of this system has, moreover, precipitated humanly unacceptable situations and human rights abuses, of which the Moria camp in Greece was one of the most flagrant examples.