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ECRE Policy Paper: Bilateral Agreements: Implementing or Bypassing the Dublin Regulation - ECRE'S Assessment of Recent Administrative Arrangements on Transfer of Asylum-seekers and their Impact on the CEAS

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The persisting divisions between European Union (EU) Member States on the allocation of responsibility for asylum seekers have cast into uncertainty the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The stalemate in negotiations on the Dublin IV proposal has also undermined compliance with the Dublin III Regulation, with some countries preferring bilateral measures to EU-wide solutions on responsibility.

The establishment of bilateral agreements for the return of asylum seekers engaging in secondary movement emerged as a German initiative in the course of 2018, predominantly driven by internal tensions within the ruling coalition on how to handle migration in the run-up to the June 2018 European Council meeting. In the months following the summit, Germany resolved political tensions between its Chancellor and Federal Minister of Interior by concluding agreements with Spain, Greece and Portugal. Despite speculation on possible similar agreements with Italy and France, these have not been confirmed to date.

These “administrative arrangements” have been presented by Germany as an interim response to the political deadlock preventing the adoption of the CEAS reform. While some agreements adhere to and operate within the EU legal framework, others bypass the rules set out in the Dublin system, with the aim of quickly carrying out transfers. What both types of arrangements represent is a vision of the CEAS and of the CEAS reform strongly supported in Germany and certain other Member States whereby prevention and punishment of secondary movement is of prime importance, while tackling the underlying reasons for secondary movement receives less attention.

This Policy Paper provides ECRE’s analysis of and concerns about the recent bilateral arrangements between EU Member States on responsibility for asylum seekers. It examines the legality of agreements facilitating return established between Germany and other Member States and outlines their policy implications for the transparency and credibility of the CEAS. The paper ends with recommendations for a rights-based implementation of the EU asylum acquis in the absence of deeper reform.