The European Commission has issued a report on the status of the implementation of the Agenda on Migration, in view of the next European Council.
In December, at the time of the last report, the Commission complained about the too slow implementation of the initiatives adopted by the Council. The system of hotspots and the relocation scheme did not achieve full implementation yet. However, the Commission acknowledges today that progress was made by Italy and Greece on fingerprinting, which is an essential step for the functioning of the entire relocation system.
Commission claims success also on rescue operations. In the course of 2015, Frontex Joint Operation Triton and Frontex Joint Operation Poseidon rescued over 250,000 people and apprehend over 900 suspected smugglers. In relation to human smuggling, the Commission announced that on 22 February, Europol will launch the European Migrant Smuggling Centre, an EU information hub on migrant smuggling. This is part of the efforts to scale up the capacity of Europol, Frontex and Eurojust to gather intelligence to tackle human smuggling.
One of the most interesting and probably controversial points of the report is related to Greece. Together with the communication on the progress on the implementation of the Agenda, the Commission adopted a recommendation addressed to Greece on the urgent measures to be taken in view of the possible resumption of some transfers under the Dublin Regulation. Dublin transfers towards Greece were suspended in 2011. This was the consequence of a decision of the European Court of Justice, stating that Member States should not transfer asylum seekers to Member States where systemic deficiencies in the asylum procedure and in the reception conditions of asylum seekers amount to substantial grounds for believing that the asylum seeker would face a real risk of being subjected to inhuman or degrading treatment. Since the suspension of Dublin Transfers, the Commission worked closely with Greek authorities on improving the asylum system and reception conditions in the country. Today, the Commission states that there are still key areas in the Greek asylum process that need to be improved before the Dublin Regulation can be fully applied to Greece again, notably in the areas of reception capacity and conditions, access to the asylum procedure, appeals and legal aid. Therefore, in its Recommendation, the Commission sets concrete steps to bring Greece back into the Dublin system.
The reason why this point is interesting is threefold. First, the current crisis and the increased use of the Western Balkans route has put the Greek reception system under enormous pressure, which will probably continue in the next months. Several NGOs have documented the challenges encountered by authorities to face this pressure. Second, if the Commission adopts a plan to relocate an important number of migrants from Greece, recognizing the high pressure on both the greek and the italian systems, does it make sense to resume Dublin transfers, which will probably make numbers grow higher?
Last, but not for importance, the Commission is working on a new system that is supposed to be presented in spring and to replace the Dublin Regulation quite soon, after the recognition, by several Heads of State, that the Dublin system has failed. Sources reveal that the new system will be based on the principles of solidarity and responsibility sharing, therefore taking into account the need to relieve pressure from countries at the border. It is not clear then why are we still talking about resuming Dublin transfers to countries at the border. Definitely, not a promising step towards the abolition of the Dublin system that seems to reveal difficult negotiations around a different system.