On February 18, 2003, the European Council ratified the Dublin II Regulation, thus laying down a further directive for EU foreign and security policy. The regulation ushered in a new, restrictive asylum policy that would protect as much as possible the EU’s founding member states from the obligation to accept refugees.
The Dublin II Regulationdetermines which state is responsible for processing an asylum claimmade within the EU (as well as in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein). According to the regulation, the state which permitted, or did not prevent, entry must assume this responsibility. A person seeking asylum is therefore required to submit their claim in the first European state they enter; if they do so elsewhere within the EU, their extradition to the “responsible state” can be arranged.
As a result, rather than having to bear the costs of processing the majority of asylum claims in the EU, the states on Europe’s southern periphery (particularly Malta, Italy, Spain and Greece) have enacted an increasingly restrictive asylum policy. The border protection agency FRONTEX, which coordinates EU border security, controlling its outer borders and assisting member states in implementing deportations, also emerged in this context. These developments have reinforced the image of “fortress Europe”, of an EU increasingly insulating itself from the outside world. With the Dublin II Regulation, the states at Europe’s core (Germany, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands) as well as those on its northern edge (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway) provided themselves with a legal protection against the obligation to accept refugees and persons seeking asylum.
Furthermore, the European fingerprint database EURODAC has been in operation since 2003, allowing the verification of an asylum seeker’s date and place of entry into the EU and recording whether he or she has already submitted an asylum claim in another state. Thus it can be ensured across the EU’s member states that an individual is only able to submit a single asylum application. With the ratification of the Dublin III Regulation on July 19, 2013, police and other security agencies were granted access to this database.
The Dublin II Regulation has been criticized for the severity with which the EU’s outer border is controlled as well as the discrepancies between member states’ fulfillment of standards for processing asylum claims and basic social standards in dealing with refugees. Critics of German practices in this context have also pointed out that the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees often arranges extraditions without informing the person concerned and carries out deportations without prior warning. The repeal of the Dublin II Regulation is a central demand of the Germany- and Europe-wide refugee protest movements that have emerged since 2012 [see: Refugee protests in Europe and Germany, 2012-2014].