Switzerland must change its Dublin practice

Today the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) and the Swiss Refugee Council (OSAR) publish their second joint report regarding the situation of vulnerable asylum seekers transferred to Italy under the Dublin III Regulation. The report documents the experiences of vulnerable asylum seekers after their Dublin transfer to Italy (‘Dublin Returnees’) and evaluates their situation from a legal perspective.

The Dublin Returnees Monitoring Project was found in 2016 by the DRC and OSAR with the aim to document the experiences of asylum seekers transferred to Italy under the Dublin III Regulation, in order to gain a better understanding of the functioning of the Italian reception system.

Out of the 25 cases that were registered by the project in the second reporting period, some disappeared, others decided they no longer wanted to participate, and still others could not produce official papers relating to their Dublin transfer. Furthermore, as the scope of the second report focuses on vulnerable persons, some monitored cases were not included in the report as they did not fulfill the requirements to be regarded as vulnerable under EU law.

The 13 remaining – fully documented but anonymized – cases in the report sustain the conclusion that, even when the transferring State has been given guarantees by the Italian authorities in accordance with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in Tarakhel v. Switzerland with regard to the proper reception of the person(s) involved, the actual reception conditions the Dublin Returnees receive upon transfer often do not meet the minimum legal standards.

The reporting period coincided with the Italian parliament accepting new legislation affecting refugee protection and the reception system in Italy. OSAR predicts that the situation of asylum seekers (including Dublin Returnees) and status holders in Italy will worsen following the changes of the Salvini decree, in force since 5 October 2018, which significantly affect the Italian reception system for the worse.

States, knowingly transferring Dublin Returnees to Italy, infringe on their obligations under European and international law, as Articles 31 and 32 of the Dublin Regulation explicitly obliges transferring Member States to ensure that special reception needs of vulnerable asylum seekers will be met following a Dublin transfer.

OSAR submits, therefore, that European states bound by the Dublin Regulation should hence cease the transfer of vulnerable asylum seekers to Italy until further notice, assess the legality of a Dublin transfer of non-vulnerable asylum seekers to Italy on a case-to-case basis, and apply Article 17 of the Dublin Regulation when there are compelling reasons to do so.