What does leaving the EU mean for asylum policy?

Published: 28th Jun 2016

This briefing is largely based on the briefing by the House of Commons Library ‘EU referendum: impact of an EU exit in key UK policy areas’. The opinions and judgements it contains are theirs. We expect to review and add to these articles periodically as events develop.

The UK will still have a responsibility to people seeking asylum even once it leaves the EU. This is something which is specified in the Geneva Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights and the UK is signed up to both. These laws both exist outside of the EU.

The EU has been setting up a Common European Asylum System for the last 20 years or so. From 2000 to 2005, the UK opted into a number of laws relating to this. These mainly involved how asylum seekers are treated and how their applications are processed, as well as laws setting out which EU country is responsible for processing an asylum seeker’s claim (the “Dublin system”). These measures are integrated into the UK’s asylum policies and procedures.

But, since then a number of these laws have been altered and the UK has chosen not to sign up to these.

The Dublin system has been seen by successive UK governments as greatly beneficial to the UK. The House of Commons Library says this is because the system tends to make countries which are closer to the EU’s external borders responsible for asylum claims.

However, the ongoing ‘migration crisis’ in Europe has highlighted a number of problems within the Dublin system, and there is some doubt over its long-term future in its current form.

The European Commission has identified a need for a permanent crisis relocation system to assist specific Member States in the event of extreme migration pressures. It is also considering additional changes to the rules for determining which Member State is responsible for an asylum claim. There has been some speculation that new proposals may impose more responsibilities on Member States without external EU borders than the current arrangements.

New proposals are expected to be published by the European Commission for negotiation this spring. The UK government’s view on these proposals is that the principles underlying the existing Dublin regulation should be retained.


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