Germany Drops EU Rule in Order to Welcome Syrian Asylum Seekers

Germany has announced it will disregard EU rules and will now accept applications from all Syrian refugees, regardless of which EU country they first entered. In doing so, Germany has become the first EU country to suspend the EU's Dublin Regulation in relation to Syrian refugees—a 1990 rule which forces refugees to seek asylum in the European country they first arrive in, meaning they are at threat of deportation if they try to apply in another.

In a tweet posted on Tuesday, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), an office belonging to the German Ministry of Interior Affairs, confirmed that the Dublin procedure would no longer apply to Syrian nationals for the present time. Germany has not suspended the whole protocol—only in cases concerning asylum seekers from Syria. The Dublin Regulation states that a country can suspend the rule for some refugees.

A statement sent to Newsweek from BAMF reads: "Dublin Procedures of Syrian citizens are currently as far as possible factually not carried out by the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees. Asylum procedures that are not concluded yet will be processed in Germany. This new regulation is a guideline, not a binding formal directive."

The statement also makes clear that in the past, BAMF has examined carefully whether there are any humanitarian reasons for Germany to suspend the regulation on humanitarian grounds. According to BAMF, at the end of July this year, there has been just 131 transfers of Syrian citizens from Germany according to the Dublin Regulation.

All current expulsion orders for Syrian asylum-seekers will be revoked and new Syrian arrivals will not have to fill out questionnaires to determine which country they first arrived in, the Independent newspaper reports. Italy and Greece have the highest rate of asylum seekers returned under the regulation.

The EU has described the current crisis in Europe as the gravest since World War II. Official figures produced by Frontex show a record 107,500 migrants crossed into the EU last month alone, surpassing the 100,000 mark for the first time since Frontex began keeping records in 2008.

According to the UN's refugee agency, the "vast majority" of asylum seekers arriving into Greece and Italy are from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, with Syrians accounting for 63 percent of all arrivals since the beginning of the year. Most of them enter Greece via Turkey, before making their way through the Balkans to reach countries like Germany, the UK and Sweden.

On Monday, the German chancellor Angela Merkel and her French counterpart François Hollande called for a common European asylum policy and uniform EU standards for registration, accommodation and health care of asylum seekers at a press conference in Berlin. "Germany and France expect all member states to implement fully the right of asylum," Merkel said after a meeting with the French president, while Hollande said, "We must implement a unified asylum system."

The two leaders called for a common EU list of "safe countries" in order to separate genuine refugees from economic migrants, and for new EU registration centres planned for Italy and Greece, where most migrants arrive after crossing the Mediterranean, to be set up by the end of the year.

The Dublin regulation has become a source of tension among European countries, with Greece complaining that it can not cope with the numbers of Dublin returns and Amnesty International highlighting serious concerns with regard to the treatment of asylum-seekers, refugees and migrants in Greece in a report. The UK home secretary, Theresa May, said in May that Britain would not participate in any proposed mandatory EU programme to resettle migrants across Europe.

Update: This article has been updated to include a statement sent to Newsweek by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).