With its quota for asylum seekers already exhausted, the European Commission has moved into desperation mode as it seeks to keep the topic of reform of the Dublin Regulation – the European Union’s legislation that determines which EU member is responsible for examining the application of asylum seekers who want international protection under the Geneva Convention and the EU Qualification Directive – on the public agenda at a time when the issue over both legal and illegal immigration into Europe is becoming an increasingly divisive issue.

The Commission wants to try and capitalise on the progress that has already been made on formulating a common asylum reform programme ahead of the European elections in May of next year, Brussels has pushed for the adoption of at least five of the seven proposals that make up the full migration package, including an integrated approach that reinforces control of the bloc’s external borders, promote cooperation with asylum seekers’ countries of origin, and strengthen the return policy of returns of immigrants who do not qualify for international protection.

The European Commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos said reforming the Dublin Regulation remains a top priority for Brussels and needs to be finalised as quickly as possible due to the uncertainty of the immediate future once European elections are held in May

“I think it (reform) is still possible. It’s about understanding the situation and showing true political will, with some Member States, perhaps, revising their positions where needed. We have four months (left), and that should allow us to reach this goal,” said Avramopoulos, who added that all of the EU’s members had agreed on the need to carry out the much-needed reforms, because the current rules place unfair burden on some of the bloc’s members, while also “undermining the freedom of movement” concept in the 26-member Schengen Zone, which, according to Avramopoulos, “weakens trust between countries”.

The Commission has in recent months been quick to point out that the number of entries by illegal migrants from areas in the eastern and central Mediterranean have fallen drastically over the last year with 57,000 cases being registered in 2018, a number that Brussels says in proof that its containment policy for the entry of migrants from the Middle East and Africa is working.