Proposals for a new Dublin regulation, the cornerstone of the European Union’s asylum system, were approved by the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee on October 19. The draft includes remedies to current weaknesses and the creation of a robust system for the future.

“The European asylum system is one of the key issues determining how Europe’s future will develop,” said the parliament’s lead MEP on the revision, Cecilia Wikström (ALDE, SE).

“As rapporteur, my goal is to create a truly new asylum system, based on solidarity, with clear rules and incentives to follow them, both for the asylum seekers and for all member states,” she added.

Under the proposed rules, the first countries of arrival would no longer automatically be responsible for the asylum seekers. Instead, the assignment of responsibility would be based on “genuine links” to a member state, such as family, prior residence or studies.

If no such link exists, asylum seekers would be automatically assigned to an EU member state according to a fixed distribution key, as soon as they are registered and after a security check and swift assessment of their eligibility for being accepted. This is to avoid that “front line” member states, such as Greece and Italy, shoulder a disproportionate share of Europe’s international obligations to protect people in need and to speed up asylum procedures.

Member states that do not follow the rules would face the risk of having their access to EU funds reduced.

The draft report was approved by 43 votes to 16, with no abstentions. It constitutes the European Parliament’s negotiating mandate for talks with member states in the Council.

Now it is up to the plenary to formally confirm the decision by the Civil Liberties Committee to enter negotiations during its November session in Strasbourg. The European Council has yet to approve its mandate.

The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament was quick to stress the need to overhaul the Dublin regulation. S&D Group president Gianni Pittella said: “It has been clear for years that our current asylum system is not fit for purpose. It leaves countries on Europe’s borders, such as Italy or Greece, to face the bulk of asylum cases alone and allows other countries to shirk their humanitarian responsibilities. This is not sustainable; we are turning a manageable situation into a crisis.”

According to Pittella, the ball is now in the Council’s court. “We urge them to act so that we can finalise these proposals. Our Group is clear, only a truly European asylum system is acceptable – we will not back any agreement that does not replace the first country of entry principle.”

The view from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats in Europe (ALDE) Group in the European Parliament was similar.

MEP Cecilia Wikström (ALDE/SWE), who is leading the revision, called on the European Council to adopt its position so that negotiations can start.

“The European asylum system is one of the key issues determining how Europe’s future will develop,” she said. “As rapporteur, my goal is to create a truly new asylum system based on solidarity with clear rules and incentives to follow them, both for the asylum seekers and for all member states.”

European United Left-Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group in the European Parliament agreed.

GUE/NGL Coordinator on the LIBE Committee, Cornelia Ernst, said she is “extremely happy” about the adoption of this report.

“GUE/NGL has for a long time demanded an end to the current system that leads to Italy and Greece being held responsible for the majority of asylum seekers in the EU,” she said. “What the report adopted today proposes is a system of distributing asylum seekers among members based on meaningful links to a member state, such as having family ties, diplomas and previous residence permits in that member state.”