EU restarts returns of new asylum seekers to Greece

DW — Freshly-arrived asylum seekers in Europe can once again be sent back to Greece if that was their first entry point, under a new EU recommendation. It amounts to reinstatement of the EU’s severely tested “Dublin” system.

Greece was expected to accept back asylum seekers who from Wednesday turn up in other EU member nations as the 28-nation bloc sought a gradual resumption of its “Dublin” asylum system alongside its “Schengen” open-borders ethos.

The reinstatement is based on a European Commission recommendation issued in December.

Explicitly excluded from such returns will be vulnerable asylum applicants, such as unaccompanied minors. Applicants who were present in other EU nations before March 15 will “in most cases” still have their claims processed in those nations.

Reinstatement of “Dublin” – requiring any asylum bid to be processed by the EU nation in which the applicant first arrives – is described by the European Commission as “indispensable” for the “normal functioning” of Europe’s 26-nation “Schengen” area initiated by five of them in 1995.

It harmonized visa policies and allowed motorists and travelers to cross borders without policing checks, except during limited-term emergency periods.

“Dublin,” expanded since 12 EU nations launched it in 1997, was suspended in 2011 because of “systemic deficiencies” seen in Greece’s asylum practices by the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Justice.

Its practices broke down in 2015 during migrant arrivals via the western Balkans route, now largely closed by fences, which saw 1.1 million migrants reach Germany.

 Germany’s interior ministry said late Tuesday the plan applied to solo asylum seekers, married couples and families “without problem constellations” as well as convicts and persons regarded as Gefährder  or potential terrorist threats.