Photo: UNHCR

Schengen/Dublin and Switzerland

The Schengen Agreement brought about the elimination of border controls on internal borders of Schengen states. The Dublin system therefore regulates which member state is responsible for the examination of an application for asylum.

Schengen Agreement

The Schengen Agreement (in French) eliminated borders inside the Schengen area. Even third country nationals can move with relative freedom within the Schengen area. By way of compensation, the controls on the external borders of the Schengen area were intensified and cooperation between the police and the judicial authorities was simplified. 


The EU agency Frontex (European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the member states of the European Union) was established in 2004 to simplify and coordinate operational cooperation and to support border controls.

The key elements of Schengen law currently in force are as follows:

Dublin Agreement

The so-called Dublin system regulates which member state is responsible for processing an application for asylum. The heart of this agreement is the Dublin Regulation. An application is examined just once within the Dublin area. This approach ensures that an application is actually examined and that asylum seekers cannot be shifted from one country to another without receiving a proper asylum procedure (in order to avoid “refugees in orbit”). The Dublin Regulation is also intended to prevent asylum seekers from migrating on to other member states and lodging an asylum application multiple times.

Dublin III Regulation

The Dublin III Regulation (in French) has been in force since 1 January 2014. It was passed to make the Dublin system more efficient but, above all, to strengthen the legal guarantees for the individuals involved. In national law, Dublin states should be able to provide for a suspensive effect for asylum seekers who file appeals against an asylum decision. 

Eurodac database

To identify asylum seekers and to determine the state responsible for processing the application for asylum, all Dublin states are connected to the Eurodac database. Under certain circumstances, this database allows them to compare fingerprints. The efficient application of the Dublin III Regulation is supported by the also revised Eurodac Regulation.

Participation of Switzerland

Since 12 December 2008, Switzerland has been applying both agreements it concluded with the EU. On 29 March 2009, the international airports in Switzerland introduced controls conforming to Schengen. Since then, passport checks are no longer conducted at Swiss airports for flights within the Schengen area.

In 2009, Switzerland also took over the Frontex Regulation as part of Schengen law. As a result, it is participating financially and operationally in Frontex. Switzerland also accepted the Schengen Borders Code, the Visa Code, the Return Directive and the Regulation on Rapid Border Intervention Teams (RABITs).

Complete list of agreements that have been concluded (in French)

By signing these agreements, Switzerland is taking part in Europe’s work on security and asylum cooperation. 

Having a say

Switzerland has a say in shaping the further development of Schengen/Dublin law but is not allowed to co-decide formally. Although it is not obligated to accept the minimum standards, it has little leeway for deviating from the regulations valid in the EU for political reasons.