Analysis: Crisis reflects dysfunctional Dublin system

Securing support for a pan-European policy on asylum will be a challenge

Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban travels to Brussels on Thursday for talks with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as the refugee and migrant crisis continues to overwhelm Europe.

On Wednesday, as thousands gathered outside Budapest’s main international train station for a second day, the European Commission insisted it was up to member states to implement EU asylum policy. However a commission spokesman said the EU’s executive arm would come forward with proposals for a permanent relocation scheme to be triggered in emergency situations, within weeks.

In addition, the commission is working on a common list of so-called “safe countries” which would facilitate the “fast-tracking” of applications from countries that are deemed safe, speeding up the rate of returns of migrants to such countries.

Both proposals are likely to dominate the meeting of justice and home affairs ministers scheduled for 10 days' time in Brussels to discuss the refugee crisis, with migration expected to form the cornerstone of Mr Juncker's speech to the European Parliament next Wednesday.


Mr Orban is due to hold emergency talks with Mr Juncker on Thursday. Hungary has attracted criticism for its handling of the crisis, including the erection of a 175km- long fence on its external border, with Austria and France explicitly criticising Budapest, prompting Hungary to summon the ambassadors of both countries.

‘V four’ meeting

While the European Commission has said that Hungary is free to control its own external borders, it has tacitly criticised the move. It is expected that the commission’s decision to grant Hungary at least €8 million to help deal with the crisis will be discussed at the meeting.

Mr Orban, who has regularly clashed with the commission over justice and law and order issues in recent times, is also due to attend a meeting of the "V four" group of east European countries – Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia – in Prague on Friday.

As the European Union grapples with an unprecedented migration crisis, the commission has denied that the so-called Dublin convention is in disarray, following Germany's decision this week to accept undocumented refugees transiting through Hungary.

Under the convention – a cornerstone of EU asylum law – those seeking asylum must do so in the countries where they first arrive. EU officials have stressed that Schengen rules already contain a clause that permits countries, in exceptional circumstances, to temporarily erect border controls “in the event of a serious threat to their public policy or internal security”.

Chaotic events

But the chaotic events of this week, which saw Hungarian authorities allowing undocumented refugees and migrants to pass to


and Austria on Monday, only to prevent people boarding trains the following day citing EU asylum law, have revealed the Dublin system to be at breaking point. The head of the


group in the European Parliament,

Philippe Lamberts

, echoed the feeling of many when he called for the “dysfunctional Dublin system” to be replaced. A review of the convention is scheduled for 2016.

While protests continued in Budapest, the crisis was not confined to Hungary.

Approximately 4,000 people arrived in the Greek port of Piraeus from the island of Lesbos on Tuesday night, while 12 bodies, presumed to be Syrian refugees, were recovered from the water. According to the EU's border control agency, Frontex, 23,000 refugees and migrants arrived to Greece last week alone. The European commissioner for migration – Greek commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos – is due to visit Greece later this week.

At the other end of the continent, Eurostar services were suspended overnight as migrants seeking refuge in Britain entered the Channel tunnel. Meanwhile British prime minister David Cameron told reporters that "taking more and more refugees" was not the answer, revealing the stark differences in approach taken by member states towards the crisis.

With more than 100,000 refugees and migrants reaching Europe in July alone, the mass movement of people through the European Union in search of asylum shows no signs of abating. The crisis has revealed a desperate need for a common EU asylum policy, but securing the support of all 28 EU countries for a pan-European approach will be a challenge in the coming weeks.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent