Caught between 'Dublin' and the deep blue sea: 'small' Member States and European Union 'burden-sharing' responses to the unauthorized entry of seabourne asylum seekers in the Mediterranean from 2005-2010.
Thesis DisciplineEuropean Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
The Dublin Regulation determines the Member State responsible for accepting and making a decision on asylum claims lodged in the European Union (‘EU’), Norway and Iceland. It aims to ensure that each asylum claim is examined by one and only one Member State, to put an end to the practice of ‘asylum shopping’ and to prevent repeated applications, both of which have been costly for the receiving Member States and caused severe inefficiencies in the determination processes in the EU in the past.
With the first Member State of entry being the major determinant for the allocation of asylum responsibility under the Dublin Regulation, there has been growing discontent among Member States at the external borders of the EU, particularly the southern Member States in the Mediterranean, over what they see as a system that has unjustly placed disproportionate burdens on them regarding the admission of seaborne asylum seekers and the costs associated with it. As a result of changes in migration rules and consequent adjustments in the entry strategy employed by irregular migrants and people smugglers, the Member States at the EU’s ‘southern frontline’ have unwillingly played the role of reluctant hosts to boatloads of unwelcome asylum seekers.
This thesis aims to examine how the EU has attempted to tackle the challenging situation of the unauthorised migration of asylum seekers into its territory by sea, and in particular, how it has responded to demands from affected Member States for a more equitable system of asylum responsibility allocation in spite of and outside the Dublin framework. It would argue that the ‘small’ EU Member States in the Mediterranean themselves have, over the last five years at least, become the unexpected drivers of the EU’s declared commitment to the principles of ‘solidarity’, ‘fair sharing of responsibility’ and ‘effective multilateralism’.
‘ Small’ as they may be in terms of resources, size or influence vis-à-vis the larger Member States, the former have been able to create their own mark in a global regime that has traditionally been resistant to the idea of burden-sharing. The measures taken by the EU’s ‘southern frontline’ have collectively changed the landscape of a global protection regime where not only is asylum ‘burden sharing’ highly elusive – its terms and conditions are also dictated by the more powerful sovereign states. While the theoretical point of departure in this study is the influence wielded by the ‘small’ EU Member States in the burden-sharing debate, the degree or level of ‘influence’ small Mediterranean Member States can exercise in pushing for cooperative arrangements is itself determined by a system that is biased towards large states, increasingly securitised, and is therefore limited in both nature and scope. Nevertheless, the experience of ‘burden-sharing’ in the EU between 2005 and 2010 demonstrates that the Member States at the periphery have proactively taken the responsibility for the operationalisation of the founding values and principles of the EU, and through active norm advocacy and related strategies, have been able to achieve what has eluded the global protection regime so far – a refugee burden sharing scheme.