When you arrive in Europe, EU law does not allow you to choose the country where you want to file your asylum application. The EU created a set of rules called the “Dublin III” Regulation to determine which country is responsible for examining your asylum request. We will call the countries that apply this regulation “Dublin countries.”
This means the Regulation also helps countries decide whether you can get sent back to the Dublin country where you first fingerprinted or applied for asylum.
According to the regulation, each asylum request can be examined by only one Dublin country. However, in practice, the Dublin Regulation is very complex and each country implements it differently.
You can use this article to learn more about:
- Which countries apply the regulation
- How countries can find out where you’ve traveled
- How countries determine the Dublin country responsible for your case
- What your rights are under the Regulation
Got any questions on the Dublin Regulation, message us on Facebook.
Countries that apply the Dublin Regulation
The Dublin countries include the 28 European Union countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.
Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein also apply the Dublin Regulation.
How Dublin countries check your status
Generally, the first Dublin country where you arrive is responsible for registering you and taking your fingerprints. If you come to Italy irregularly by sea and apply for asylum, you will likely be fingerprinted twice. You can read more about this process here.
When you apply for asylum, no matter where you are in the EU, authorities will take your fingerprints and upload them to a European database called Eurodac. Your fingerprints will be stored in Eurodac for 10 years, and all Dublin countries have access to this database.
The Dublin procedures
All countries that apply the Dublin Regulation have an office or a ‘unit’ of specialized officers who specifically deal with Dublin cases and determine which country is responsible for examining your asylum claim.
The deadline for a Dublin country to submit a Dublin request varies depending on the case but the maximum amount of time is 3 months after an asylum-seeker registers his or her intention to seek asylum.
The time limit to transfer an asylum-seeker back to the responsible Dublin country also depends on the case, but is usually 6 months after that country accepted the transfer request, or after the final decision on an appeal. This deadline could extend up to 12 months if an asylum-seeker is detained or up to 18 months if he/she leaves undetected by authorities.
If country A (Italy, for example) doesn’t respond to the request made by country B (i.e. Germany) to take you back within the time limit, your transfer back to country A is automatically accepted.
If the deadline for country B (where you’re currently staying) to carry out your transfer expires, then country B must process your asylum request.
If you first arrived to another Dublin country
If you claim asylum in Italy and the questura think that Italy is not the first Dublin country you arrived, based on the information they’ve gathered - including but not limited to your fingerprints previously registered by other Dublin countries - the questura will send your application to Italy’s Dublin Unit.
If the unit sees that you were already registered by another Dublin country, they should start the Dublin procedure to determine which country is responsible for your request.
In this case, the questura will release you a permesso di soggiorno per “attesa Dublino” that comes with the same rights of the permesso di soggiorno per richiesta asilo.
If the Italian Dublin Unit determines that another Dublin country is responsible for your claim, Italy will make a request to that state to take you back. If the country accepts or does not answer within the time limit, the Italian authorities will send you a notification of a Dublin decision to transfer you to the country responsible to examine your asylum claim.
If you first arrived to Italy
If you entered the EU through Italy, where you have been fingerprinted and/or applied for asylum, and you travel without permission or file another asylum claim in another Dublin country, that country can start a Dublin procedure to determine whether Italy is responsible to examine your asylum request.
If the Italy’s Dublin Unit confirms Italy is responsible or does not answer within the time limit, you’ll receive a Dublin decision to be transferred back to Italy. In the last few years, Italy rarely responded within the deadline, but it has gotten more strict recently.
Note that if you are an asylum-seeker, you are not allowed to travel outside of Italy. This means if you are caught in another Dublin country, you may even be detained and sent back.
What if I have to go back to a country that I don’t want to return to?
If you do not agree with the outcome of the Dublin procedure, you can contact a lawyer in the country that took the decision to check if you can challenge this decision. If you are in Italy and have reason to appeal, you can do this within 30 days. Each country has a different timeline.
Make sure you provide your lawyer with all the relevant information and documentation.
Dublin Regulation Criteria
The Dublin Unit determines which state is responsible for your asylum request depending on your age and based on a series of criteria stated in the Dublin Regulation.
If you are under 18
If you arrived in a Dublin country without your family, the Dublin Unit will consider your case according to the following criteria:
- If one of your family members has a valid stay permit in another Dublin country, that country should be responsible for examining your asylum request. Each country has a different definition for who is considered family, but often this includes your parents, a legal guardian, siblings, uncles or grandparents who can take care of you. It’s very important you speak about this with your legal guardian, who can help you with the procedure.
Learn more about Family Reunification in Europe here.
- If none of your family members have a valid stay permit in another Dublin country and you’ve left Italy, your asylum request will most likely be evaluated in the country where you’re currently staying — even if you first entered Europe through Italy and/or filed multiple asylum requests in different countries.
If you do not have a national passport to prove your age, the authorities of the country where you’re currently staying will do a thorough procedure to determine your age. This procedure differs per country.
If you’re an adult
If you’re an adult seeking asylum in a Dublin country, the Dublin Unit will decide which country is responsible for examining your application based on the following criteria in order of importance. If one reason is not relevant, the next will be considered and so on:
If you have an immediate family member, such as a spouse or child under 18, who was granted international protection or is seeking asylum in another Dublin country. You will need to express your wish to join your family member in writing on the C3 form. Your family member must express the willingness to reunite with you too.
If you have a stay permit in Dublin country A (i.e. Italy) or had a stay permit which expired less than 2 years ago and didn’t leave the Dublin area before applying for asylum in Dublin country B (i.e. Germany), the country that issued the permit is responsible for examining your asylum request.
If you have a valid visa from a Dublin country or had a visa that expired less than 6 months ago. The country that issued the visa is responsible for examining your asylum request.
If you entered Europe irregularly from a non-European state, the first Dublin country you entered (country A) is the one that will examine your asylum request. However, if 12 months have passed since you entered Europe and you stayed in another Dublin country (country B) for 5 months continuously OR if authorities cannot find out how you entered Europe, country B is responsible for examining your asylum request. If 12 months have passed since you entered Europe and you stayed in different states for more than 5 months, the country where you stayed most recently is responsible for your application. Dublin countries can determine how you entered Europe through documentation from detention centers, prisons and hospitals, deportation orders and expired visas.
If you applied for asylum in a transit area of an airport or in a Dublin country that didn’t require an entry visa, that country is responsible for examining your asylum request.
These are the general rules stated under the Dublin Regulation, but it’s always possible for countries to independently decide whether to examine an asylum application, even if another Dublin country could be considered responsible for it.
Under the Dublin Regulation, a Dublin country can voluntarily take responsibility for examining an application even if it’s not responsible under the criteria laid down in the Regulation.
Your rights during the Dublin procedure
You have the right to:
Access information about the Dublin procedure in your language.
Provide your relevant information in a personal interview (in Italy, you do this through the C3 form).
Live in the country that started the Dublin procedure until you receive a decision on your case.
Appeal the decision to transfer you to another Dublin country (the time limit may vary from one country to another, in Italy within 30 days) if you don’t agree with the decision. You will need a lawyer to appeal. In Italy and in many other countries appealing does not automatically suspend the transfer but you can apply for this suspension, which will be decided by a judge. If your lawyer does not appeal or does not appeal on time, the country where you are currently staying has the right to immediately transfer you back to the Dublin country where you first arrived.
If you are not granted these rights, you can get in touch with a lawyer to help you.
What does this mean for me?
In Italy, asylum requests are made through the C3 form. In some cases, you will fill out this form with the help of a cultural mediator or interpreter.
During this process, you should be asked a set of questions that helps determine whether Italy is the country responsible for your asylum request. The criteria mentioned above will be used to decide this.
According to the Dublin Regulation, if it’s determined that Italy is the country where you must claim asylum, you should not be able to apply for asylum in other EU countries. This also applies if you get a negative decision on your asylum claim in Italy at various instances.
You will technically be able to submit an asylum request in another Dublin country, but this country will see you were already in Italy and open a Dublin procedure.
However, in practice, even if Italy is the country responsible for your claim, some courts in other Dublin countries have prevented vulnerable asylum-seekers from being sent back to Italy due to poor living conditions. These court decisions have been very inconsistent throughout the Dublin region.
I was sent back to Italy — now what?
If you were sent back to Italy after unsuccessfully challenging the transfer decision, Italy will be responsible for examining your asylum application. Legal experts advise that you contact a lawyer on next steps on your asylum procedure.
If you were sent back during your appeal process, make sure to keep in touch with the lawyer supporting you in the country you were sent back from. This will ensure you are kept up to date with the results of your appeal.
If you’ve already done your commission interview, getting sent back to Italy through the Dublin procedure doesn’t negatively impact the decision on your asylum request, but it can delay it.
You can learn more about the Dublin Regulation here.
How the Dublin Regulation works in practice
In reality, only a small proportion of transfer decisions result in actual transfers to the responsible Dublin country, often due to:
- The country’s inability to meet the time limits set by the Dublin Regulation to carry out transfers.
- Asylum-seekers moving on their own due to long administrative delays in processing Dublin cases.
- Asylum-seekers submitting appeals, leading to courts suspending transfers.
- The country’s lack of resources to implement the transfers.
In 2018 Italy received the most Dublin requests from other member countries, mainly from Germany and France. According to a report by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), in the first 11 months of 2018, Italy received over 31,000 requests, but in that same time period just over 5,900 people were sent back to Italy.
If you’re uncertain about your specific case under the Dublin Regulation, you can ask a lawyer or message us on Facebook to find one.
You can learn more about how the Dublin Regulation was actually implemented in 2018 in ECRE’s report.
Drop us a private message on Facebook if you have any questions or need help finding a legal expert in your area.