Between Humanity and Security: Common European Asylum System Controversy

Thousands of people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to get to Italy, crossing dangerous routes to get to Greece, with the aim of escaping dangerous situations and looking for a new life in Europe.


Since the rise of humanitarian crises, non-traditional security issues such as genocide, mass murder, and terrorism have begun to develop. In 2011, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) presented data showing that there were as many as 42.5 million refugees worldwide, which increase in the following years, culminating in 2015, when the number of refugees jumped by 50% to a total of 65.3 million people. Most of the asylum seekers come from conflict-ridden countries like Syria. The 1951 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Refugees stipulates that the granting of asylum is necessary for people fleeing from chaos and serious danger; therefore, asylum is a basic human right. States have moral and international obligations in dealing with this asylum issue.

Europe is one of the areas where people are fleeing chaos and serious harm from their countries. Until 2015, there was a significant increase in the number of asylum seekers in the European region. Thousands of people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea to get to Italy, crossing dangerous routes to get to Greece, with the aim of escaping dangerous situations and looking for a new life in Europe. This has become a serious issue facing Europe in 2015.

The Common European Asylum System (CEAS) policy issued in 1999 became a reference for EU member states in dealing with asylum seekers and refugees issues. CEAS sets the standard for EU member states to ensure that asylum seekers and refugees are treated equally and fairly. Countries in the European Union have a shared responsibility for welcoming asylum seekers and ensuring that everyone is treated fairly and based on equal standards. According to the EU’s official website, CEAS aims to achieve:

  1. A clear and functional process to determine which country is responsible for examining an application for protection,
  2. A set of common standards to inform fair and efficient asylum procedures,
  3. A set of common minimum conditions for dignified reception of applicants for protections,
  4. Convergence on the criteria for granting protection statuses and for the content of protection associated with those statuses.

Overall, CEAS is designed to be a regulation that sets the procedures and standards for asylum seekers and refugees organized in an integrated system. And the goal is to ensure that every individual seeking protection in the UE is treated fairly and afforded protection in line with international standards.

Humanity vs. Security

As stipulated in the 1951 Geneva Convention, seeking protection is a basic right that every human being has, so a state has a moral and international responsibility to address this refugee issue. However, on the one hand, the issue of refugees and asylum seekers can cause problems for the security of a country, as happened in Europe. The high flow of asylum seekers, as happened in 2015, raises concerns for countries in the European region, especially from the European community. CEAS has regulated the distribution of refugees and asylum seekers to EU countries, but in fact this distribution is not evenly distributed proportionally, which is centered in Germany, France, Sweden, and the UK. This is one of the criticisms of this European migration policy.

The increasing flow of asylum seekers to Europe in 2015 due to conflicts in the Middle East made the flow uncontrollable. The asylum seekers entered through Greece, Italy, Malta, Hungary, Croatia, and Bulgaria. The uncontrolled flow made the government at the border close the access. The uncontrolled number of asylum seekers occurred because transit countries were overwhelmed by the high intensity of asylum seekers, so that many illegal migrants crossed other routes, such as through the Aegean Sea, causing concern for European society about the potential for acts of terror, so that European society began to marginalize asylum seekers. 

CEAS Controversy

Germany and Sweden receive more than 40% of the total refugees in the entire EU, resulting in an uneven distribution of the burden, which is not in accordance with the principle in CEAS, where EU countries bear joint responsibility. This has led to a negative response from its society towards asylum seekers and refugees, such as hate speech, discrimination, and violent rejection. The UK, despite being the country that has received the least number of asylum seekers and refugees compared to other EU countries, has taken the issue of migration seriously, which will determine its relationship with the EU in the future as the UK is in the process of leaving the EU. British society has responded aggressively to the issue of migration, with racism, hate speech, and anti-foreigners increasing.

Lack of oversight of migration flows, such as in Greece as a transit country, often ignores asylum seekers registration, which affects countries in the North. In addition, some countries, such as Hungary, rejected the mandatory quota of asylum seekers into their country because they were worried that accepting a large number of outsider people would interfere with their country’s sovereignty.

It can be seen that there are various problems with the implementation of this CEAS policy in various countries in the European Union. First, the uneven distribution has overwhelmed countries like Germany in dealing with asylum seekers and refugees. Second, the lack of readiness and resources of countries at the border in handling asylum seekers flows of asylum seekers into countries in the European Union, which raises security concerns by European society about terrorism and criminality, resulting in negative impacts such as marginalization of asylum seekers and discrimination. And third, the lack of solidarity from EU member states in addressing this issue, showing the different responses of countries in the EU to this CEAS policy.

With all the problems faced by EU countries in implementing this policy, it is necessary to review or even reform the policy to create a fair and efficient policy for all parties. Harmonization of admission procedures needs to be improved to ensure that asylum seekers and European citizens alike feel safe, so that unhumane acts by asylum seekers and the security of receiving countries are maintained. Balancing security and humanitarian commitments is key to the CEAS policy, and it is important to ensure that it does not compromise either interest. Ensuring that all parties are involved and supportive of this policy is one of the efforts that can be made to increase the effectiveness of this policy towards asylum seekers.

The existence of the Common European Asylum System policy shows that the European Union as an international organization has a strong commitment to the protection of human rights, and as the most integrated international organization in the world, the European Union encourages its member states to cooperate with each other in supporting the protection of human rights, especially regarding the issue of asylum seekers and refugees due to conflict and war. So that joint support is needed from the European Union and its member states to fix all the shortcomings that occur in the field, so that the Common European Asylum System can become an effective asylum system and humans that are beneficial to all parties involved.

Atikah Najra Fathiya
Atikah Najra Fathiya
Atikah Najra Fathiya is currently in her sixth semester majoring in International Relations at Andalas University, Indonesia. Atikah has a strong interest in security, economic, and geopolitics issues.