External Publications

Asylum Challenges, Debates and Reforms. How Germany, Poland, Portugal and Sweden have developed their asylum systems since 2015

When a million people sought refuge in Europe in 2015 due to the wars and violent conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, the structural deficiencies in the already flawed Common European Asylum System (CEAS) became evident. This publication analyses how the asylum systems in Germany, Poland, Portugal and Sweden have evolved since 2015, which reforms were introduced, and which challenges remain.

2021 marks the tenth year of the dreadful war in Syria. A war that has forcibly displaced millions of Syrians from their homes, destabilised the entire region and impacted world politics. In 2015, the severe consequences of the wars and violent conflicts in Syria and the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa) started to directly affect the European Union as well. The sudden increase in arrivals at the EU’s external borders painfully exposed the inherent weaknesses of the CEAS. Crucially, this resulted from the faulty construction of the Dublin regulation, which stipulates that – in most cases – the Member States of first entry are responsible for processing asylum applications. The Dublin regulation’s inadequate design has caused disproportionate pressures on EU Member states with external borders in the south, namely Greece, Italy, Spain, Malta and Cyprus.

Despite efforts to strengthen the EU’s ability to act, key challenges to the CEAS remain. A comprehensive agreement on the reform of the Dublin regulation is still missing, as finding a solution on solidarity and responsibility sharing between EU Member States continues to be the most difficult task.

In the absence of a comprehensive agreement on the EU level, much has happened in Member States since 2015. In the four country studies, published here, the authors analyse the asylum challenges, debates and reforms that have taken place in Germany, Poland, Portugal and Sweden. The studies highlight the specific situation of each asylum system. How have the four EU Member States experienced the sudden rise of asylum applications in the EU, especially between 2015 and 2016? How have they sought to reform their asylum systems since then? Which hurdles have they faced in the process and which challenges have not been solved so far?

This publication is part of the initiative Making Asylum Systems Work in Europe, which the Bertelsmann Stiftung and the Migration Policy Institute Europe started in cooperation with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal, the Swedish Migration Studies Delegation (Delmi), the Institute for Public Affairs (IPA) in Poland and the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD). The initiative aims to contribute to the capacity building of national asylum systems so they can function more effectively.

The chapter on Poland is authored by Agnieszka Kulesa, CASE economist.