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E.g., 06/22/2024
Chasing Efficiency: Can Operational Changes Fix European Asylum Systems?
March 2020

Chasing Efficiency: Can Operational Changes Fix European Asylum Systems?

With new EU leadership having taken office in late 2019, Brussels is hungry for fresh ideas that will either revive or reform the Common European Asylum System. The scale and pace of asylum-seeker arrivals on European shores in 2015–16 pushed many Member State systems to a breaking point and brought into glaring focus problems—such as incomplete registration of new arrivals and lengthy case processing backlogs—that existed even before the crisis. Several years on, proposals to address these and other issues through reforms to the EU legal framework for asylum have stalled.

Yet, this has also been a period of intense innovation at the national level. Member States have tested new or revamped old ideas to improve the operation of their asylum systems—how they register those seeking protection, offer them reception and material assistance, investigate their protection claims, and then, if their cases are rejected, return them to their origin countries.

This MPI Europe-Bertelsmann Stiftung report examines these Member State responses and the wealth of lessons, as well as some cautionary tales, they offer as European leaders contemplate future changes. Among the innovative approaches are the creation in Germany and France of “first-arrival centers” to swiftly register and secure accommodation for newcomers, Swiss “processing centers” that bring together all stakeholders involved in the asylum procedure to make high-quality decisions more quickly, and the Dutch and Swedish “triage” or “track” systems that assign incoming cases to tailored asylum procedures.

Understanding this operational dimension—the nuts and bolts of EU asylum systems—is essential for efforts to secure durable improvements. As the author writes, “The era of using (purely) legislative reform to attempt to fix European asylum systems and preserve the integrity of protection regimes has come to an end; the future lies with policy-making approaches, such as a strategic roadmap, that mobilize the full set of tools available.”

This is the final report for the Making Asylum Systems Work in Europe initiative, which aims to contribute to efforts to build the capacity of national asylum systems and improve cooperation between EU Member States.

Table of Contents 

1  Introduction

2  Registration
A. Two-Stage Registration Processes
B. Arrival Centers
C. Using Registration to Improve Other Parts of the Asylum System
D. Registration and the Dublin System

3  Reception
A. Upscaling and Downscaling Reception Capacity
B. Understanding Other Reception Pressures
C. Monitoring Reception Capacity
D. The Missing Piece: Defining Optimal Reception Capacity

4  Processing Asylum Claims
A. Tailoring Asylum Procedures to the Incoming Caseload
B. Cooperation and Co-Location of Asylum Authorities
C. Processing at Border or Disembarkation Points

5  Return of Rejected Asylum Seekers
A. Links with Registration of New Arrivals
B. Links with the Processing of Asylum Claims
C. Links with Reception Practices

6  Lessons for Joint EU Responses to New Arrivals
Task 1. Registration and Identification
Task 2. Initial Assessment of Legal Grounds to Stay in the European Union
Task 3. Activation of the Return Procedure
Task 4. Processing Asylum Claims
Task 5. Relocation of Protection Beneficiaries to Other EU Member States
Task 6. Controlling the Movement of Migrants Following Arrival
Designing Joint Approaches as Part of a Broader Rethinking of How New Arrivals Are Managed

7  Conclusions