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The Dublin Convention in the light of the expansion of the European Union to the East

Svetlana Gannushkina, Head of the "Migration Rights” network, Human Rights Centre Memorial, Chairperson of the "Civic Assistance Committee”

     "The Dublin Convention of 1990 determines which state is responsible for examining an asylum claim submitted in one of the member countries of the European Community”. This Convention was adopted when the European Union was still in its infancy.  The Maastricht treaty on the European Union came into force only on 1 November 1993.

     Western Europe implemented the creation of a territory without internal borders, which allowed for free movement and other recognised democratic freedoms.  In doing this, it was seen as important to ensure that states carried out their international responsibilities, including guaranteeing protection to refugees as stipulated in the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees of 1951 and the New York Protocol of 1967.

     Some dangers in this approach were predictable.  The creation of a unified space could lead to a situation where states sent asylum seekers back and forth, not wishing to accept the responsibility for deciding their fate.  It was necessary to ensure that asylum seekers were guaranteed the right to submit an application for refugee status and that their applications would be examined by one of the states of the European Union.

     In order to escape "playing football” with refugees, criteria were developed to determine the state responsible for examining the application for asylum. These criteria comprise the main part of the Dublin Convention.

     The second danger was the widespread possibility that an asylum seeker could submit applications for refugee status in more than one country. The Dublin Convention tried to exclude this possibility.

     The principle mechanism for determining responsibility for processing asylum claims was the responsibility for the entry to the territory of the EU, i.e the issue of a visa, or visa-free or illegal crossing of the state borders.

     Before this other problems had arisen with this approach to identifying the states responsible for examining asylum claims and providing asylum.  Experts, including Christopher Hein, the Director of the Italian Refugee Council, examine these in this collection of articles.

     I would like to look at the challenges, which have arisen recently, linked with the entry of some countries of Eastern Europe into the EU.  Firstly, let’s look at the situation of refugees from the Russian Federation, who find themselves in Poland.

     Poland became a member of the EU on 1 May 2004.  Until this time Polish territory was used as a transit zone for refugees into Western Europe. However, the Dublin Convention now prevents Poland from allowing asylum seekers to cross its borders with Western European countries. Here, responsibility is placed on a country, which it is obviously not ready for. Poland does not have an established tradition of accepting refugees, does not have the necessary resources to look after them, and is not in a situation to organise or build accommodation centres for refugees in such a short time.

     Despite the differences in levels of economic development of Western European countries, the diversity of its cultural traditions, approaches to the solution of social problems and financial possibilities differ greatly from those of Eastern European countries who have recently become members of the EU, and who until recently belonged to the "socialist camp”. 

     The number of Russian citizens who seek asylum in Poland or who are sent back there from other EU countries is significantly higher than the existing capacity of 2,700 places in the four temporary accommodation centres for refugees. There are over 6,000 people, the majority of whom are from Chechnya. 

     Asylum seekers have gone on hunger strikes in these accommodation centres protesting at the lack of medical assistance, the lack of financial allowances and adequate food. The Polish authorities do all they can, but are not able to deal with the large number of refugees on their territory.  Chechens cannot stay in Poland, and feel that they are trapped.  Gathering their last strength, Chechens pay to cross into Western European countries illegally.

     The Polish authorities admit that they need help from the EU – for example for the building of new accommodation centres for asylum seekers. But more than anything they, and other states too, need a considered approach and support from the EU to solve the situation of Chechen asylum seekers. 

     However, the old members of the EU are not ready to take on any additional responsibilities.

     After Poland became part of the EU, France, for example, began an active policy of deportation of refugees who had stamps in their passports indicating they had crossed the Russian-Polish border.  The French migration authorities do not actually take decisions to deport Chechens, however, our fellow citizens are often not able to get to OFPRA (The French Service for Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons). They fall into the hands of officials of the local authorities under the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Territorial Organisation, Nicolas Sarkozy, who may well become the next French president.
Nicolas Sarkozy – a vehement fighter against illegal migration, defends the Dublin Convention. In early 2005 he ordered his staff to deport no fewer than 23,000 illegal migrants over the year. In his address to local deputies on 9 September Sarkozy commented, "all in all over the last 8 months 12,849 foreigners were subject to this effective method of deportation and the target has been achieved by 56%. Therefore you have five months left to double your efforts”.  He asked them not to " be distracted by pressure from "communities” or "coordinators” who are only serving their own interests”. He also gave the local deputies the responsibility of
"combating certain ideas from abroad”. (Information source: website of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of France, which contains the whole text of Sarkozy’s speech to local deputies).

     Nicolas Sarkozy’s approach is very close to that of the Russian Chief Presidential Advisor on Migration, Victor Petrovich Ivanov.

     This approach has drastic consequences for refugees.  Approximately a year ago there was an incident, which stood out from the usual pattern of the fight with illegal migration. A married couple of Chechen people were detained in a shop near the hotel, where they had just checked in.  On checking their documents, officials of the local authorities found out that the couple had recently crossed the EU border in Poland.  There followed an awful scene – they handcuffed the crying and sobbing woman and sent her, along with her husband, to the airport, where they were put on a flight for Poland. The officers did not know one word of Russian, let alone Chechen and the Chechen couple could not speak French.  They were not allowed to go back to the hotel. It was only in the plane that the Chechen couple were finally allowed to use a phone and ring the Chechen Committee, one of the community organisations, which Minister Sarkozy considers "thinks only of its own interests”.

     From the telephone conversation our French colleagues found out that the deported couple had not only left their things at the hotel, but also their eight-month old daughter. 
Of course, this incident is only an extreme illustration of what implementing the Dublin Convention uncritically can lead to. The Dublin Convention contains no principle of burden sharing.

     Law is not a dogma, to be followed unthinkingly, set in stone in conventions and acts. Law is a living organism, which evolves as the real lives of people change and society changes.  The interpretations of formulas can change, and even the formulas themselves.
However soon new member states are accepted into the EU, until they reach the same level of development as the "old” European states, it is not permissible that they, instead of help and support, receive a heavy burden thrown to them with relief by their older "brothers”. 
Either the Dublin Convention should be interpreted from the position of necessary burden sharing or it needs to be amended.

Категория: С.А.Ганнушкина | Добавил: Администратор (10.01.2010)
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Каждый молчит о своём: истории одной войны


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