Armed conflicts have forced thousands of people to leave their homes. Europe is being affected by those conflicts not even taking part. Migrants willing to start a new safe life have rushed to Europe from different cauldrons of conflict: Yugoslavia, Egypt, Livia, Syria… Refugee problem is an object of political manipulations since this topic is fragile. This article is to represent some legal aspects of how refugees are welcomed in European countries.
Talking about European law is impossible without mentioning the European Union. There is no common and agreed position among its members, some of them are willing to welcome refugees and some of them are opposing the peaceful policy of the EU. European migrant crisis (2015) has shown that there is no consolidation inside the EU: for instance, the refugee problem was one of the causes of so-called “Brexit”, which took place in 2016 in Great Britain. According to different studies, from 1 to 1.8 million of illegal migrants came to Europe in 2015.
There is the Dublin Regulation (Regulation No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person) or so-called Dublin III Regulation , which determines responsibility for the countries in examining and accepting asylum seekers, protected by the Geneva Convention. This document is a basis of the Dublin System, which regulates immigration policy within the EU. One of the most important aims of this system is to prevent people from sending multiple applications to different countries. The country which takes the responsibility for an asylum seeker (usually it is the first country the refugee has entered) is to decide whether one’s application should be accepted. If the application is rejected, the seeker is unavailable to restart this process in another country inside the EU.
This system proved to be ineffective during 2015 for Hungary was overwhelmed with refugees and could not accept so many applications from asylum seekers. Germany has claimed its decision to accept people’s applications, even if another country was ought to do it. So did Czech Republic. Dublin System was criticized by many lawyers and politicians since it had put countries that were close to the EU borders under the big pressure .
Absence of clear and effective regulation has caused tragic consequences: for instance, a truck with corpses of 71 refugees were found in August, 2015 in Austria. People are supposed to have died for the lack of oxygen. According to UN data, almost 2.5 thousand of people drowned in the Mediterranean sea trying to reach Europe in 2015. Also an Afghan refugee was the first person to be killed while trying to cross the Bulgarian border (15.10.2015) . The influx of refugees has caused a rise of right parties and leaders across the EU (including Mari Le Pen, French politician who took part in presidential elections in 2016).
In order to help countries like Italy and Greece, the EU has created a special quota for immigrants. It is a complicated index based on GDP, population, living standards etc. This also caused disbalance between countries for states like Sweden, Germany, Great Britain had to accept far more people than countries like Lithuania, Estonia etc. Some countries were willing to extend their quota (Iceland) and other opposed their obligation to accept large numbers of refugees. Countries like Poland have not accepted a single asylum seeker (the quota for Poland was 7 thousand people). Finland has fulfilled its quota in the range of 94%, Ireland – in the range of 92%.
In 2015, Hungary and Slovakia appealed to the Court of Justice of the EU to challenge the decision, which obliged the member states to accept 120 thousand refugees, who arrived in Greece and Italy, in order to reduce migration pressure in these countries. Slovakia and Hungary believed that the decision on the movement of refugees was made with violations of the established procedures, and it would not be able to help resolve the migration crisis. In September 2017, the Court delivered a final verdict and rejected the claims of the two states .
Besides international treaties, the EU applied the principle of solidarity. Due to it countries have created common marine patrol services. Germany also appealed to this principle when claiming the will to accept extra refugees.
Refugee policy is also regulated by the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (1951) . The key provisions of this treaty are related to fundamental human rights and their protection.
The migration crisis forced the EU to make an agreement with Turkey in 2016. This convention includes the following:
1) All illegal migrants, starting from March 20, 2016, will be sent back from Greece to Turkey. This will be done in full compliance with the EU and international law. It will be a temporary and emergency measure that is needed to end the suffering of people and restore public order. The cost of the operation to return illegal migrants will be covered by the EU budget.
2) Turkey will take all necessary measures to prevent new sea and land illegal migration routes from Turkey to the EU and will cooperate with neighboring countries, as well as with the EU, in this regard.
3) The implementation of the plan to ease the visa regime for Turkish citizens will come into force no later than the end of June 2016, provided that Turkey fulfills all the obligations prescribed by the EU.
4) The EU will try to quickly pay Turkey the previously promised 3 billion euros and will arrange additional financing for the same amount. The second tranche must be received by Ankara in 2018.
5) The EU and its member states will cooperate with Turkey in any joint efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in Syria.
6) In exchange for every Syrian migrant returned to Turkey from Greece, another Syrian refugee must be placed in one of the EU countries. The placement of migrants in the EU, according to the authors of the document, should be based on the UN principle of priority assistance to the most vulnerable segments of the population.
7) The European Union and Turkey are committed to giving a new impetus to the process of the country's accession to the community .
This treaty was criticized by some international organizations (for example, “Amnesty International”) . Human rights defenders consider this agreement as cruel and one that violates basic standards of international law. Turkey has declined all prosecutions and has been a leader in the number of welcoming refugees.
Migrant policy is common both for the members of the EU and countries outside the Union (Norway, Iceland, Switzerland). There is also a special EU-Denmark agreement.
Different countries also have different inner legal aspects of refugee social and legal adaptation. The Netherlands provides those refugees, who are ready to adapt under the new circumstances, with free language courses. Germany also offers migrants language courses – about 600-900 hours, which is the most among countries of the EU. Great Britain has centers that offer psychological and career help.
According to surveys, conducted in 2016, the majority of people in different European states oppose their government migration policy and think about it as an ineffective and harmful. The biggest discontent rates were reported in Italy (77%), Sweden (88%) and Greece (94%).
There are a lot of opinions on how the current system can be improved. The key points of the majority of them are: need to create common for all states border protection system; working on public opinion on asylum seekers; supporting non-EU states willing to welcome refugees; improving financial system in order to have enough funds to resolve immigrant problem .
Refugee problem remains complicated and discussable. However, people and states should remember that all humans have fundamental rights, no matter which country is their origin.
1. Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 - https://eur-lex.europa.eu/eli/reg/2013/604/oj
2. Anemona Hartocollis; Dan Bilefsky; James Kanter "Hungary Defends Handling of Migrants Amid Chaos at Train Station". - https://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/04/world/europe/hungary-train-station-migrant-crisis.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=a-lede-package-region®ion=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0 - The New York Times, 2015.
3. Afghan refugee shot dead by police while trying to enter Bulgaria - https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/oct/16/afghan-refugee-shot-dead-police-turkey-enter-bulgaria – The Guardian, 2015.
4. Judgment in Joined Cases C-643/15 and C-647/15 Slovakia and Hungary v Council - https://curia.europa.eu/jcms/upload/docs/application/pdf/2017-09/cp170091en.pdf – Luxembourg, 2017.
5. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees - http://www.unhcr.org/protect/PROTECTION/3b66c2aa10.pdf – Geneva, 1951.
6. EU-Turkey Statement - https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/03/18/eu-turkey-statement/ - 2016.
7. Amnesty International. "EU-Turkey refugee deal a historic blow to rights". - https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/03/eu-turkey-refugee-deal-a-historic-blow-to-rights/ - 2016.
8. Soros lays out his plan for Europe to avoid 'catastrophe' - https://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/20/soros-lays-out-his-plan-for-europe-to-avoid-george-migrants.html – CNBC, 2016.
Науковий керівник: Бенедик Яна Степанівна, кандидат юридичних наук, ассистент кафедри міжнародного права Національного юридичного університету ім. Ярослава Мудрого