Political Theory: Asylum
State seeks asylum-seekers

Are asylum-seekers and their new home country a good match? How refugees and the EU states can both profit from a fair system of distribution and demand. By TOBIAS KLARMANN

Translated by Adam Stead and Christine Crawford

The status quo is deficient: In theory, the distribution of asylum-seekers in the EU follows the so-called Dublin System. According to it, the first country an asylum-seeker enters is responsible for that individual. Therefore, if a person seeking asylum first steps foot in the EU in Italy and is later apprehended in the Netherlands, he or she can be "returned" to Italy.1 This process occurs regardless of whether the individual is legally entitled to stay in the EU. The central concern is with determining which country should process the request for asylum.2

The national borders of many EU member-states (such as Italy, Malta or Greece) are routinely confronted with the movement of immigrants. Due to their geographic location, they are — again, in theory — responsible for a much larger number of individuals seeking asylum. However, the majority of asylum applications are processed elsewhere, in Germany, France, Austria, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The numbers indicating where asylum-seekers actually stay within the EU paint a similar picture. The existing system contradicts (both theoretically and practically) the demands from EU law for an equitable and jointly-shared distribution of responsibility. This begs the question: Can a more reasonable solution for the distribution of responsibility in the European asylum system be found?

The alternative to the Dublin System: The alternative plan3 presented in the following, envisages a market-based quota system which accounts for the needs of asylum-seekers and EU member states. Determining the quotas is the first step. Such factors as population, economic power and prosperity could be used to calculate each country's capacity to accept asylum-seekers. In Germany, a guide for distribution among the federal provinces according to their population (1/3) and tax revenue (2/3) already exists.4

Political efforts to introduce EU binding quotas have been unsuccessful to date. Taking in asylum-seekers is often perceived as an economic and social burden, so it will likely be difficult in the future to attain political consensus.

"Fair trade" with asylum-seekers
The model presented here, however, goes a step further. It proposes a market-based trade system to ensure optimal distribution. Optimal distribution here means that the interests of both the person seeking refuge and the countries offering asylum, would be taken into account as far as possible. The basic idea is a trade in residence permits between countries and asylum-seekers. Similar to trading within a market, the person seeking asylum would initially possess a residence permit from the country of their entry, which they could then exchange for another, which they perceived to be better.

Conversely, countries could make offers to preferred individuals which met their quotas, whilst accepting individuals that from their perspective, best fit their needs. Individual negotiations on such a scale are not possible, therefore, another method of distribution needs to be developed.

In order to achieve this, the individual would first create a ranking of all the countries that might come into question for him or her. The individual may (only) be assigned to a country which he or she ranked higher on his/her personal list, than  the country which the asylum-seeker entered and which is therefore responsible for him or her (according to current legislation). This would only be possible, however, if these countries have additional "quota" spaces. An Assignment to a less-preferred country would not be possible.

Further, the preferences of potential host countries would be taken into account. These preferences could relate, for instance, to an individual's career skills, language skills, residency status and nationality. For their part, states would create a ranking of the attributes they prefer. Although the countries' specific preferences would be similar in part, a divergent weighting would arise from their different social, cultural, political and economic backgrounds.5

On the basis of these lists and available space, "visa offers" would be made to the corresponding individuals and the individual could choose one of these offers. Those offers which are not accepted would then be offered to the next individuals in the order of preference and so on until all the offers have been accepted and the quotas have been met.

Compensation payment for "quota sinners"
A country could not make an offer if the person seeking asylum ranked the country as less attractive than the country which he or she first entered as an asylum-seeker. Accordingly, some countries may not able to meet their quotas. In such instances, however, countries would be required to pay back any savings created by their lack of need to process applicants. This measure is aimed at preventing countries from abandoning their responsibility by making themselves as unattractive as possible to refugees to discourage applications. Thus, there would at least be no financial incentive for countries to shirk their duties.

An additional system of sanctions (a fine, for instance) for countries that do not meet (or cannot meet) their quota would encourage these countries to examine the reasons why they are not attractive to asylum-seekers (long processing times; openness towards immigrants in social and work environments; discrimination; racism; low rates of recognition, etc.) and to look for solutions.

Complimentary to the trade in visas between countries and asylum-seekers, this model also envisages a trade system that would enable member states to exchange quota spots among themselves. For instance, if Country A has already reached its quota and Country B has not, Country A could take on additional quota room from Country B. Such trading could be beneficial for both countries. Country B could reduce its responsibility for accepting asylum-seekers and thereby avoid paying a fine, or it could reduce its actual costs, if the payment to Country A is lower than the costs arising when the country attempts to meet the quota itself. Because it is clearly more attractive to people seeking asylum and receives assignments of asylum-seekers based on its preferences, Country A, in turn, could be interested in accepting more individuals as a way of reacting to demographic and economic developments. Moreover, if Country A possesses efficient administrative, social and legal systems, the actual fiscal costs there could be lower than in Country B.

The method of distribution suggested here would thus lead to a win-win-win situation.

The method of distribution suggested here would thus lead to a win-win-win situation. Country B would pay less than it would with a fixed quota. By taking on more than the quota, Country A receives an assignment of additional individuals who fit its desired profile, and can even enjoy a financial benefit. And the person seeking asylum sees an improvement in his or her situation in that he or she can only be "moved up" his or her list of preferences.

Improvements of integration
The person seeking asylum could be asked about his or her preferred countries during the registration process after arrival. The collection, updating and administration of the preference lists of asylum-seekers and asylum-granting countries as well as the distribution or assignment could be done by the United Nations Human Rights Council (the division of the UN that deals with refugees' rights) or the EASO (the European Asylum Support Office).

The advantages of the quota system and assignment method: A quota system would create a clear framework for responsibilities within European asylum system. It would eliminate the existing temptation to avoid responsibility by not registering asylum-seekers and accord (also legally) a fair share of responsibility to countries which people seeking asylum only rarely enter as their country of first arrival.

The greatest improvements, however, reside in the fact that the person seeking asylum, on the one hand, could assume (at least partly) an active role in the decision as to where he or she ends up. On the other, the integration of asylum-seekers into society and the job market would function better on account of assignments of asylum-seekers which are customized to a country's specific needs, which would in turn encourage hosting countries to regard their responsibility as less of a burden. This, in turn, could engender an (increased) willingness to accept other individuals seeking asylum. The fundamental change in direction that would accompany countries' need to market themselves to asylum-seekers in order to attract their "ideal candidates" or at least enough individuals to reach their quota could lead to a massive rethinking and a drastic improvement in the reciprocal relationship between hosting countries and asylum-seekers.

Improvement of current practice
Afterword: Of course, the approach presented here would not solve every problem of responsibility and distribution. Even if asylum-seekers were assigned to the countries which they prefer, the temptation (though reduced) to move on to even more attractive member states would still exist. This so-called "secondary migration", however, already occurs on a large scale in the current system and at least would not increase (on account of the system in which the asylum-seeker makes a subjective determination of positive options for assignment).

Moreover, countries' (un-)attractiveness to asylum-seekers is often related to their economic situation. The latter would not improve with sanctions and thus the aim to encourage countries to make themselves more attractive to asylum-seekers would be more difficult to achieve. Thus, it might make more sense to offer a financial incentive for taking on more people seeking asylum than the quota prescribes. This same result, however, could also be achieved (at least in part) through the system of (in most cases mutually attractive) trade between countries.

This approach is admittedly very technocratic in nature. It also does not deal in-depth with the question of to what extent the interests of nation-states should be taken into account. Likewise, it ignores the question of asylum-seekers' rights to freedom of movement, which are already very limited and are also limited in this system. These regrettable limitations are a product of political circumstances, which often opposes thoroughgoing reforms.

On account of its potential to improve all aspects of current practice, however, the model presented here has a real chance of winning a political majority in the foreseeable future. And given the system of need-based assignments, this chance of a becoming a majority movement is also higher than with a fixed quota or the equally utopian and desirable idea of rendering borders and nations utterly redundant.

[1] "Returning" here means (forced, if necessary) transportation back to the country responsible for the individual.
[2] The determination of whether grounds for extending international protection are present is only made once the procedure for granting asylum has begun.
[3] The plan was conceived by Jesús Fernándes-Huertas Moraga and Hillel Rapoport.- URL: http://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/33097/RSCAS_2014_101.pdf.
[4] The so-called Königsteiner Schlüssel (distribution coefficient of königstein). How the quotas would roughly shape up if this standard were applied at a EU level (in which case tax revenue would be replaced by the Gross Domestic Product) and how this compares to the present figures has already been examined.- URL: http://www.verfassungsblog.de/koenigsteiner-schluessel-fuer-eu-fluechtlingspolitik/.
[5] This is particularly the case with language skills. Knowledge of French, for instance, plays a much larger role in integration in France, Belgium or Switzerland than in Germany.


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Broad Lane   12:13 Uhr 14.04.2015

Theobald Tiger klingt auf jeden Fall etwas amüsanter ;)

DIrk   07:48 Uhr 11.04.2015

Es ist zudem der hässlichste Name der Welt

Philipp Bauer   13:53 Uhr 10.04.2015

Ignaz Wrobel war das Pseudonym Kurt Tucholskys in der "Weltbühne". Nur als kleiner fun fact am Rande. Nicht dass es am Ende noch heißt, man würde bei Katapult nichts lernen...

Tobias Klarmann   19:48 Uhr 08.04.2015

Sehr geehrter Herr Wrobel,

das sehen Sie (leider) absolut richtig. Für Asylsuchende welche von den Aufnahmestaaten (aus welchen Gründen auch immer) als unattraktiv angesehen werden würde sich in der Tat wenig ändern (wenn nicht gerade ein attraktiver Aufnahmestaat seine Quote nicht erfüllen kann, was eher unwahrscheinlich ist). Aber das Modell hätte eben auch für diese Personen zumindest keine nachteiligen Auswirkungen. Daher würde ich dies nicht unbedingt als "Schattenseite" bezeichnen.

Das der Entwurf sehr technokratisch ist hatte ich ja bereits geschrieben. Das er ferner aufgrund der marktwirtschaftlichen Ausrichtung ein etwas befremdliches Gefühl im Zusammenhang mit schutzbedürftigen Personen auslöst, kann ich gut nachvollziehen.

Es ist jedoch wichtig zu berücksichtigen, dass es eben nicht darum geht das die Mitgliedstaaten mit Menschen handeln, sondern das die Asylsuchenden (zumindest in einem beschränkten Rahmen) ihr Schicksal aktiv(er) gestalten können. Sie haben eine zentrale Rolle in einer Umverteilung und können nicht gegen ihren Willen umverteilt werden. Daher würde ich dem Vorwurf, dass Menschen bei dem vorgestellten Modell als Waren/Objekte behandelt werden doch deutlich entgegentreten wollen. Meiner Ansicht nach ist es gegenüber der aktuellen Rechtslage zumindest ein kleiner Schritt hin zu einer stärkeren Wahrnehmung und Behandlung der Personen als autonome Subjekte.

Das der Entwurf viele (und auch erhebliche) Probleme nicht lösen würde will ich nicht bestreiten (und habe ich ja auch bereits im Text nicht geleugnet). Aber es wäre eben, aus meiner Sicht, ein (realpolitisch umsetzbarer) Schritt in die richtige Richtung.

Auf eine Möglichkeit der Verbesserung zu verzichten, nur weil nicht alle davon profitieren, halte ich für unsolidarisch. Außerdem besteht ja (wie geschrieben) die Hoffnung, dass bei einem besseren/passenderen Verteilung sich eine höhere Akzeptanz schaffen lässt, welche dann auch den Personen zugute kommen würde, welche nicht von der Verteilungsmöglichkeit profitieren.

Liebe Grüße

Tobias Klarmann

Ignaz Wrobel   17:41 Uhr 08.04.2015

Sehr geehrter Herr Klarmann,

ihr Model gefällt mir, da es (endlich) eine Alternative zum unsäglichen Dublin-Verfahren aufzeigt.
Wenngleich ihre Idee des Handels mit Aufenthaltstiteln ("Ware Mensch") befremdlich wirkt, ist eine Bestrebung zur Veränderung in diesem Bereich grundsätzlich begrüßenswert.
Ob ein Handel mit "Wunschkandidaten" unter den Mitgliedsstaaten nach den Gesetzen des Marktes mit Art. 1 GG ("Objektformel") vereinbar ist, sei hier offen gelassen.

Die Frage, die ich Ihnen gerne stellen würde, wäre aber folgende:
Wie möchten Sie mit den Asylsuchenden verfahren, die keinem Wunschprofil entsprechen? Der Flüchtling kann bei seiner Erst-Registrierung zwar eine Wunsch-Liste angeben, jedoch ist dies ja nur eine "Kann-Überstellung" und keine "Muss-Überstellung" in einen anderen Mitgliedsstaat.

Ihr Modell bietet wohl für viele Asylsuchende einen großen Vorteil, allerdings fallen bei dieser Verteilung die schlecht qualifizierten und deshalb von den Industriestaaten nicht gewollten Flüchtlinge hinten herunter.
Was geschieht mit dem geflohenen ungelernten Tagelöhner, der zwar gerne nach Skandinavien möchte, aber nicht dem Wunschprofil entspricht?
Hier zeigt sich m.E. die Schattenseite Ihres marktwirtschaftlichen Modells.

In gespannter Erwartung verbleibe ich,


Ignaz Wrobel

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