• #Asylum

How to address secondary movement of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection?

Birte Nienaber
Associate Professor - University of Luxembourg
Oesch Lucas
Postdoc - University of Luxembourg
Marta Lovison
Project manager, Researcher - Fondazione ISMU

The prevention of secondary movements is a key political issue in the reform of Common European Asylum System (CEAS). Distrust in the effectiveness of proposed measures is one of the reasons for the deadlock in negotiations beyond the issue of solidarity. 2016 Commision proposals include punitive measures such as restrictions to the freedom of movement and withdrawal of reception conditions for applicants who abscond and engage in secondary movements. European Parliament, however, in its Report on the Commission’s proposal states that “the provision of high quality reception conditions, at the same level throughout the EU will be the most important factor in preventing secondary movements”.


As our expert brief mapping the existing research in this field shows, the drivers for onward movements, how the phenomenon of secondary migration led to the securisation of the Schengen space and the need for a comprehensive harmonization of asylum rules and for new measures on asylum policy to ensure solidarity between all Member States.In our expert interview, Dr. Jeroen Doomernik and Prof. Chiara Favilli highlight that:

- harmonization and implementation of the CEAS is needed to eliminate or reduce the discrepancies between national asylum systems to minimize onward movements.

- it is necessary to find an alternative mechanism for the allocation of responsibility between Member States, in the view of a Dublin Regulation reform.

- solutions require a careful consideration of asylum seekers’ needs and limitations on the freedom of movement and residence for beneficiaries of international protection.


Key issues and controversies further highlighted in upcoming ReSOMA discussion brief include:

- The impact of current barriers to family reunification on secondary movements.

- The political and rhetorical use of secondary movements to reintroduce internal border checks within the Schengen area.

- The incompatibility between punitive measures towards asylum seekers engaging in secondary movements and fundamental rights principles enshrined in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, CJEU and ECtHR jurisprudence and EU asylum law.


This online consultation aims to discuss with national stakeholders, practitioners, policy actors and researchers the following three topics:


Topic 1: Drivers of secondary movements and role of local and national actors.

- What are the critical factors and conditions encouraging secondary movement? Please fill out our scoring survey.

- What are the specific needs of local and national actors to be actively involved in eliminating conditions that lead to secondary movement?


Topic 2: Policy actions to ensure that needs are addressed.

- What are the measures that have been implemented to fulfil these needs in your national/local context?

- What are other possible measures to implement to fulfil these needs?


Topic 3: The role of the EU and other actors.

- What role could the EU play to strengthen the current legislative framework and foster good practices and empower local and national stakeholders in addressing secondary movements?

- Who are the other key institutions and actors that are or should be involved in managing secondary movements? How can they help ensure freedom of movement?


We invite you all to share your views, experiences and examples on secondary movements within the EU in your country of work/residence.


To join the discussion, please first log in to the platform in the top right corner. 


When you leave a message, please note in the subject line the topic you are responding to in order to ensure a more interactive dialogue between commentators. Ex: “Topic 3: school boards play more important role than…”

Please scroll down to read and reply to previous comments!

Artemis Papavasileiou
05.07.2019 18:27

Topic 3

In general, it might be worth mentioning that the general promotion of free movement of persons within EU/EEA stands in strong contrast to the wish of states to “manage” migration flows and to restrict the freedom of movement of asylum seekers, while anyone else is allowed – or rather encouraged – to move between different European states. This discrimination unnecessarily adds to the stigmatization of asylum seekers. In our view, reforms should focus on increasing the possibilities of free movement upon reception of international protection status, which decreases the incentive to move as early as possible, since it leaves the option of freely moving later on. The Dublin Regulation should be reformed in a way that that gives greater importance to the individual needs of asylum applicants, including links and possibilities of integration in a particular country when deciding the Dublin state which is responsible, and provide greater leeway for family reunification. Dialogue between all Dublin states, including Switzerland should be fostered with a view to renegotiate responsibility sharing and increase the legal avenues allowing movement, e..g via relocation mechanisms and revision/application of the Temporary Protection Directive.

Zeynep Kasli
Erasmus University Rotterdam
09.07.2019 12:02

These are all important suggestions. In your opinion which specific actors play a key role in reaching these objectives?

Artemis Papavasileiou
05.07.2019 18:19

Topic 2

The Swiss legislation seems not very prone to address these needs. In particular, asylum procedures in Switzerland take very long (2 years and more), which encourages many asylum seekers to leave for another country where they may get a permit much faster and/or get a work permit during the asylum procedure, which is hardly possible in Switzerland. In March 2019, a new asylum procedure was implemented which should lead to shorter waiting times. The impact in reality cannot be assessed yet.

The asylum procedures must be much faster. It seems to be a deliberate political decision in Switzerland to have long asylum procedures to prevent asylum seekers from coming to Switzerland. The same holds true with the working ban during the asylum procedure. In our view, asylum procedures must not take longer than 6 months at the current rates of asylum seekers, and working must be permitted during the procedure.

Artemis Papavasileiou
05.07.2019 18:18

Topic 1

Some important factors include:
- Poor/ non-existent reception conditions in the country of first arrival that are in violation of basic human rights and needs (e.g. adequate housing, medical care, prohibition of inhuman treatment etc.);
- Very lengthy asylum procedures that might last for years, during which asylum seekers are at a limbo without any real prospects for living in dignity and earning a living.
- Limited prospects for integration to local society and access to labour market after having been granted international protection.
- Routine and rigid application of the “safe third country” and “safe country of origin” concepts, that leads to very high levels of rejection of applicants arriving from certain countries without an in depth examination of their personal circumstances. This creates reasonable fear of forced return/refoulement;
- Presence of family members or of a strong community of people of the same nationality in another Dublin member state.

Local actors should be supported in improving reception conditions and increase their capacity to decide on asylum claims in a timely manner, where overly lengthy procedures are the result of a lack of capacities , rather than a political decision. Also, we need to be conscious that some of the factors cannot be eliminated, such as when secondary movements take place in order to maintain family unity. In such cases, cooperation between local/national actors should be fostered in order to find formal solutions that would allow asylum applicants and beneficiaries of int. protection to enjoy the right to family life.

Camilla W. Hagen
Danish Refugee Council
05.07.2019 16:43

Topic 1: Drivers of secondary movements and role of local and national actors.

Onwards movement often takes place, because families, who have been split up during the flight from their home country, wish to reunite - and their reunion is not being facilitated by the member states. The member states should be more flexible with regard to the implementation of the Dublin III Regulation and focus on reuniting or keeping families together and respecting the best interests of the child. More countries should develop clear guidelines on how the Dublin III Regulation should be implemented, and the guidelines should be drafted based on input from human rights experts and civil society. To ensure that asylum seekers get access to the asylum and the Dublin procedure, member states should also ensure that newly arrived third country nationals have access to free high quality legal counselling from the time of arrival in the EU.

25.06.2019 16:07

Topic 3: Implementation of current standards rather then utopic legislative reform

The EU's obsession with secondary movement of asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection has been primarily addressed through proposals focusing on punitive measures on those engaging in secondary movements, such as the refusal of access to material reception conditions or procedural sanctions. Such an approach is self-defeating as it does not address the key drivers for secondary movements; i.e. divergences in protection standards, risk of refoulement and lack of access to basic guarantees. Moreover, initial Commission proposals have been significantly watered down by co-legislators for both principled and practical reasons, therefore questioning the effectiveness and proportionality of such measures. Such an approach also ignores non compliance of States with obligations under the EU asylum acquis and risks of human rights violations as key factors of secondary movements, increasingly acknowledged by national courts suspending Dublin transfers on those grounds. the fate of the asylum package being highly uncertain, effective monitoring and enforcement by the Commission of Member State obligations under existing EU law, including the EU Charter of Fundamental rights combined with positive incentives for asylum seekers and beneficiaries of international protection in areas such as integration, access to the labour market, education etc is a much more promising avenue. The role of of national and local NGOs and refugee-led organisations in this process is key and should be fully secured in the future Multi-annual Financial Framework.