The Dublin agreement – which states that asylum applications must be handled by the country where a refugee arrives – has reached its limits, said Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga in Luxembourg on Tuesday. It is “clear to everyone that the Dublin system needs to be supplemented.”
The ministers of the 28 EU countries and of the countries – like Switzerland – that are party to the Schengen and Dublin agreements met on Tuesday in Luxembourg to address the growing problem of refugees from the African continent arriving in southern Europe – particularly by sea in crowded and unseaworthy boats, many of which have capsized, resulting in mass drownings.
“The sharp rise in migration within the Schengen area poses a major challenge for Europe,” said a statement from the Swiss cabinet. “The dramatic situations evolving in this context require new measures as part of a consistent policy on migration.”
Due to differences of opinion, European justice and interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg on Tuesday postponed a discussion of the distribution of 40,000 asylum-seekers among European countries through a quota system.
Before the meeting, Sommaruga stressed that in general Switzerland is in favour of such a system.
“We have long been supporters of an allocation key,” she said. If a definitive decision is made by the participating countries in favour of such a distribution system, then “Switzerland will evaluate its participation”.
But the attendees at the meeting disagreed over all important aspects of the proposal: over the number of refugees who are to be redistributed within Europe; over the question of whether the admission of refugees should be voluntary or mandatory; and over the criteria required for the distribution key to work.
According to Sommaruga, individual national approaches to the problem are not effective. What is needed are common measures that can be implemented immediately. The consequent registration of asylum seekers is a basic requirement for the functioning of the Dublin system, which should be strengthened, Sommaruga said.
In Switzerland, the State Secretariat for Migration announced on Tuesday that guards working at the southern border reported an extraordinarily high number of people in the country without residence permits.
The welcome centre for asylum seekers in Chiasso registered 350 new applications over the weekend, leading officials to open civil defence facilities on short notice. The increase was thought to be a result of the large numbers of people arriving by boat in southern Italy.
In the past week, 1,044 asylum seekers registered for federal accommodations Swisswide.
The asylum issue has also been a topic of discussion for politicians in Switzerland. On Monday, the Swiss Senate voted in favour of a revision of the asylum law, agreeing in principle with the House of Representatives, with a main point being a requirement to speed up asylum procedures. The two chambers still need to discuss differences.
Meanwhile, the conservative right Swiss People’s Party announced Tuesday that it plans to call for a special session of congress to address the issue of asylum. Calling a special session requires the signatures of a quarter of a body’s members. In the case of the House of Representatives, this would be 50 – a quorum that could be met purely with the signatures of the 57 members of the People’s Party who serve in the House.
swissinfo.ch and agencies