E.g., 09/24/2023
E.g., 09/24/2023
Cracked Foundation, Uncertain Future: Structural Weaknesses in the Common European Asylum System
March 2018

Cracked Foundation, Uncertain Future: Structural Weaknesses in the Common European Asylum System

European asylum systems faced a number of sharp challenges as more than 1 million asylum seekers and migrants traveled to Europe during the 2015-16 crisis. Many new arrivals moved onward to other EU destinations without registration or security checks, national reception systems quickly reached capacity, and Member States clashed over how to share responsibility for processing and offering protection to those in need. Yet the number of arrivals was not solely to blame for this dysfunction. Weaknesses in the legal and operational structure of the Common European Asylum System existed long before the crisis, and many persist to this day.

This report draws much needed attention to these enduring challenges, which stretch across every stage of the asylum system—from registration and reception to the asylum procedure and adjudication. Taking a systems approach, it traces the evolution of these deficiencies and their knock-on effects in other phases of the asylum process and policy areas, while also examining some of the innovative approaches Member States and localities are using to tackle these blind spots.

At a time when new proposals for reform are on the table, the stakes are high. “Effectively resolving these weaknesses,” the author writes, “is key to fostering the credibility and sustainability of both national and EU asylum systems. Failing to do so will further cripple public trust in the ability of government to manage migration and stunt efforts to build flexibility and resilience into asylum systems.”

This report marks the launch of 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 

I. Introduction

II. Mapping the Structural Weaknesses of Asylum Systems

A. Registration

B. Reception

C. The Asylum Procedure

D. Adjudication

III. Diagnosing and Remedying System Weaknesses

A. The Dominance of Legal Perspective(s)

B. The Elusive Systems Perspective

C. Whose Voice Matters When Assessing the Performance of Asylum Systems?

IV. Conclusions