Last year 12 690 unaccompanied minors submitted an asylum application in the EU. Some of them have no one to turn to in EU Member States and find themselves in extremely vulnerable positions, facing particular challenges in the early steps of the asylum procedure.
In the light of a recent judgment of the Court of Justice of the EU, the Commission is proposing to clarify which Member State is responsible for examining applications made by unaccompanied minors. The proposal will, in particular, improve the situation of those minor applicants for international protection who have no family, siblings or relatives on the EU territory.
As a matter of principle, the minor applicant for international protection found in such a situation will have his/her case examined by the Member State where he/she has lodged an application and where he/she is present. The applicant will remain on the territory of that Member State during the examination application process, unless this is not in his/her best interests.
"The rights of the child must always come first. We need clearer and more predictable EU asylum rules for unaccompanied minors. Our proposal will ensure that the best interests of minors will always prevail in the Dublin procedure and that these minors will not be needlessly transferred from one EU State to another. They will have quicker access to the procedures for determining international protection status. This will boost the effectiveness of our common asylum system for some of the most vulnerable of all", said Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmström.
Today's proposal amending the Dublin Regulation provides legal certainty in respect of responsibility for examining the application for international protection of unaccompanied minors who have no family, siblings or relatives on the EU territory. It covers the two possible cases of minors in such cases:
When the minor has lodged multiple applications for international protection, including in the Member State where he or she is currently present, this Member State will be responsible for examining his/her application (provided that this corresponds to the minor's best interest).
When the minor who is an applicant for international protection is present in the territory of a Member State without having lodged an application there, this Member State must provide him/her with an effective opportunity to lodge an application there.
If he/she decides to apply in that Member State, he/she will remain in that Member State who will be responsible for examining his/her application (provided that this corresponds to the minor's best interest).
If he/she decides not to lodge an application in the Member State where he/she is present, the Member State responsible should be the one where the minor has lodged his/her most recent application, unless this is not in the best interests of the minor.
In order to jointly establish the Member State responsible and avoid conflicts of interest, the concerned Member States shall cooperate in assessing the best interests of the minor.
Finally, to facilitate cooperation between Member States and prevent abuse, the proposal provides that Member States must inform each other of a newly assumed responsibility.
The Commission proposal will now be discussed by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. The Commission hopes an agreement can be reached during the Italian Presidency.
The Dublin Regulation establishes criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States. The criteria for establishing responsibility run, in hierarchical order, from family considerations, to recent possession of visa or residence permit in a Member State, to whether the applicant has entered EU irregularly, or regularly.
When the new Dublin Regulation (so-called 'Dublin III') was agreed in June 2013, the Commission announced its intention to address the current ambiguity of the provision on unaccompanied minors who have no family, siblings or relatives on the territory of the Member States, and to take account of the relevant ruling of the EU Court of Justice (case C-648/11MA and Othersvs. Secretary of State for the Home Department delivered on 6 June 2013).
The Dublin III Regulation also contains guarantees that apply to all minors subject to the 'Dublin procedure' (Article 6), including to: ensure representation of the unaccompanied minor; attempt to trace the unaccompanied minors' family members as quickly as possible; consider family unity, welfare and social development of the unaccompanied minor as well as his/her safety and opinion when assessing the best interests of the child.
The Dublin III Regulation applies since 1 January 2014 in all Member States, including the UK, Ireland and Denmark (by virtue of an international agreement concluded in 2006 between the European Community and Denmark), as well as in the four non EU countries participating in Schengen (Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein).