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Narendra V.: Are there any international agreements on dealing with the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe or is it just a moral binding on the European nations?

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  • Nachiket Khadkiwala replies: The legal regime for treatment of refugees is a combination of international and domestic legal regimes. There are various international laws that govern the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers such as the Geneva Convention. In the European Union (EU), there is the Dublin Convention which was adopted in 1990. According to this law, the application of those who are seeking asylum is processed by the first country that they enter within Europe. Hence, if an asylum seeker enters Italy then the onus lies with the Italian Government to process the application of the asylum seeker, and in case the asylum seeker is not fit deemed to be given asylum, he/she can be deported, repatriated or sent to the first ‘safe country’ he/she had entered. However, legally a country cannot deport an asylum seeker to the country where he might be persecuted.

    In Europe the problem is more complex due to the Schengen system. Under this system, a person can travel freely within the Schengen area which consists of 22 EU countries along with four other European countries. Hence there are minimal internal border controls. This makes migration a problem between the European nation states. The southern European countries often accuse the other EU member states of not sharing the burden of asylum seekers. There are calls by European countries to strengthen internal border controls and restrict the Schengen system. But this goes against the free movement of people that was envisaged by the EU and puts a question mark on the entire European integration project.

    Posted on September 23, 2015