The Dublin Regulation – your questions answered

The Dublin Regulation – your questions answered


Will you be sent back to Italy if you had your fingerprints taken there, but then applied for asylum in another EU country? What happens if you are to be deported under Dublin but you refuse? We put these questions and more to a number of experts, including German lawyer Albert Sommerfeld.

The Dublin Regulation (sometimes referred to as Dublin III)
is European Union law. It determines which country is responsible for examining
an asylum application – normally the country where the asylum seeker first
entered Europe.

One of the aims of the Regulation is to ensure that an
individual does not make multiple applications for asylum in several Dublin
member states. These include the member countries of the EU plus Iceland,
Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

The Dublin member states are the member states of the European Union and the four associated states Norway Liechtenstein Iceland and Switzerland  Copyright European UnionWhat happened with the Dublin Regulation during COVID-19?

In March 2020, travel was suspended between most European
countries in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. While the Dublin Regulation
continued to apply, most transfers between the Dublin member states were
suspended from mid-March onwards.

In June, travel and border restrictions all over Europe began
to be lifted, making it possible for countries to resume Dublin transfers. The
European Asylum Support Office told InfoMigrants on June 24, 2020 that: “Member
States have indicated that they plan on gradually organizing more Dublin
transfers in the weeks to come, all whilst respecting the public health and
safety measures in place.”

Before the COVID outbreak, InfoMigrants asked a lawyer to
answer some questions received on Facebook about Dublin. We held off publishing
the answers until it became clear that the system would resume post-COVID
restrictions. This now seems to be the case.

Dublin principles

There are various criteria for deciding why a country may be
responsible for examining an asylum application, as well as complicated time
limits and restrictions. Some basic rules are:

  • If you are an asylum seeker who entered Europe and had your fingerprints taken in one Dublin country
    but you are now in a different Dublin country, then that country will ask the
    first country to “take you back”. 
  • If you applied for asylum in one Dublin country and were
    rejected by a final decision there, and then you moved to another Dublin
    country and did not apply for asylum, you may be sent back to the initial
    arrival country or returned to your country of origin or permanent residence or
    sent to a safe third country.
  • If a country accepts responsibility for examining your
    application, you will be transferred within 6 months of the date when that
    country accepted responsibility or, if you challenge the decision, within 6
    months from the time the court or tribunal decides that you may be sent to that
    country. This time limit can be extended to 18 if you run away from the authorities
    or to 12 months if you are imprisoned.
  • You have the right to say that you disagree with a decision
    to send you to another Dublin country. This is called an ‘appeal’ or ‘review’.
    You can request a suspension of the transfer during the appeal. (The question whether to file an appeal should be discussed with a lawyer or counselling service.)
  • You can be detained if the authorities consider that there
    is a significant risk that you will run away (abscond) because you do not want
    to be sent to another Dublin country. You have the right
    to challenge the detention order.

Lawyer Albert Sommerfeld, from the firm Sommerfeld, Heisiep,
Gosmann, based in Soest, Germany, provided the following answers to your questions. 
Loredena Leo and Gennaro Santoro from the Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights, and Dirk Morlok from Pro-Asyl also contributed valuable advice and feedback.

If an asylum seeker was in one European country and then
left the EU (for example, entered Turkey) before coming back to a different
country in Europe, what happens then?

Albert Sommerfeld: If one country is responsible for handling
an application for asylum, its obligations cease if the person concerned has
left the territory of the member states for at least three months. The applicant
has to prove that he or she left the territory of the member states. In this
case, the Dublin rules will apply again, so the outcome depends on the
situation after the person’s second entry.

I arrived in one European country and then moved to another
and requested asylum there. Will my asylum case be accepted? If not, what
should I do after that?

A.S.: There is no free choice when it comes to the country
in which you can apply for asylum. The Dublin rules determine which state is
responsible for treating an application for asylum. In general, it is the state
where you entered the Dublin area first. Other rules may apply. You are not supposed
to move to another country. If you do, you will likely be sent back to the
country responsible for your application. Yet the Dublin system is dysfunctional. You may well
succeed in having an asylum procedure in the country of your choice, for
various reasons. However this is in no way certain. If you have received
recognition in one country, you are no longer a Dublin case. Another country
may simply refuse to treat another application for asylum.Eurodac records the fingerprints of migrantsI had my fingerprints taken in Greece. If I go to another EU
country, is it possible to apply Dublin on me?

A.S.: Yes, of course. Whether you will be sent back to
Greece may depend on political considerations.

I arrived in Croatia and they took my fingerprints but I
didn‘t ask for asylum there. Then I went to Austria and applied for asylum, but
they rejected me after three months without any reason, saying only that I
would have to go back to Croatia to proceed (with) my asylum case. Do you have
any suggestions for me?

A.S.: See a local lawyer. The mere fact that you went
through Croatia may be enough to establish Croatia’s responsibility for your asylum


Under the Dublin Regulation, families and relatives who are separated across different European countries can be reunited during their asylum claim. Unaccompanied children can apply to join a parent, legal guardian or sibling, aunt, uncle or grandparent who is living in Europe. Adults can apply to join their family members (spouse/partner or children) in another Dublin country if the family member is an asylum seeker or refugee, or has been granted subsidiary protection.

If someone has had their fingerprints taken in Italy and had
an asylum interview there and the result was negative, is it possible to go to
another EU country to apply again for political asylum with family? Is there a
possibility for the Dublin regulation (to be applied) again?

A.S.: Dublin rules do apply to all asylum seekers. They say
that you can apply once for asylum in one country. If you move to another country,
they might send you back to the country that rejected your application. 

If I get to Europe and I already have a son over there, will
I be granted asylum?

A.S.: It depends. To have a son already in Europe is a
reason for a visa or a residence permit, in certain circumstances, but in general
not a reason for asylum. The exception is Germany. If certain conditions are
met, you may be entitled to asylum if

  • the son is less than 18 years of age
  • you have lived together as a family in your country of
  • you lodge your application for asylum immediately after
    entry, and
  • you have legal custody for the child.

I work in Germany but my wife’s asylum claim has been
rejected. We are afraid she will be deported. The kids are still small. What is
the best advice for me if I am about to lose the family I love so much?

A.S.: See a local counsel to find a solution. Your
question implies that you have a residence permit, but your wife and children do
not. It is not completely left at the discretion of state authorities to
separate families.

A family from Bosnia at a reception center in Berlin  Photo Picture-alliancedpaBvJutrczenka18-month ‘extension
of Dublin’

I have a ‘Duldung’ (temporary suspension of deportation). I
was about to be deported to Italy under Dublin and I refused to go, but I was
advised that I could stay in Germany for 18 months without the police sending
me back to Italy, and then I could reapply for asylum. What do you know about
this please?

A.S.: Your information is correct. Please be advised
that you can be deported at any moment until you reach that 18-month deadline.

When exactly do the 18 months (after which an asylum seeker
can ask for asylum in another European country) start to count? For example, a
friend of mine entered the EU in Italy, then travelled to the Netherlands,
asked for asylum in July 2019 and was rejected on the basis of the Dublin Regulation
in October 2019. He asked me when the 18 months start to count, in July or

A.S./G.S./L.L./D.M.: In Germany, the 18 months start from when Italy accepts jurisdiction. You will find this date in the notification of the deportation order. If you lodge an appeal with suspensive
effect, the 18 months start with the rejection of the appeal by the court.

Work and Dublin

I hold a 2-year Italian work permit (‘lavoro’). If someone
in Germany offers me a work contract and a residential address there, can I
transfer my Italian document to Germany? If this person were to go to Germany –
with or without a job lined up there – could they be sent back to Italy under

A.S/D.M.: If you are a resident in Italy, you must apply
for a German visa and work permit (which is normally only issued for skilled jobs). If you come to Germany without a visa, you will not get a work permit. You should discuss what to do next – and whether to apply for asylum – with a lawyer or counselling service. EU
member states grant long-term residence status to third-country nationals who
have resided legally and continuously within their territory for five years
immediately prior to the submission of the relevant application. These
long-term residents may move freely in the EU.

Finding a good lawyer

How do you find the right lawyer for an asylum claim if
you’ve recently arrived in Germany and do not know anyone?

A.S.: Consult
Put your postcode in the field “Postleitzahl” and you get a list of the nearest
qualified lawyers.

(InfoMigrants: You can also ask the Refugee Council
(Flüchtlingsrat) in your state. You will find their contact details here.)

A Libyan who has been in the UK for 6 years (granted
temporary leave to remain on a 6-month basis) is desperate and has asked to be
deported back to Libya. However, the UK does not deport back to Libya because
of the horrendous conditions (there). Can anything be done?

A.S.: Why seek deportation if you can travel on your
own? Ask a welfare organization for help with voluntary return.

Note: The law of international protection overall is very complicated. “Asylum” here is used as an umbrella term for various forms of international protection.


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