The Syrian Civil War is an ongoing armed conflict taking place in Syria. The state of unrest began in early 2011 as a result of the Arab Spring protests and the conflict eventually transitioned from protests into an armed rebellion. As of April 2015, there have been estimates of the death toll exceeding 310,000.

In addition tens of thousands of activists and protestors have been imprisoned, with reports of torture taking place. The increasing severity of the humanitarian disaster in Syria has been highlighted by the United Nations and many other international organisations. 7.6 million Syrian’s have been displaced, and more than 4 million have fled to countries like Greece, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and Egypt and became refugees. Millions more have been left without food and water and are living in dire conditions.

On 24 August 2015, Germany announced that it would be dropping EU rules that allow Syrian refuges to enter their country. These rules are imposed by the ‘Dublin Regulation’. The Regulation establishes a hierarchy of criteria for identifying the Member State responsible for the examination of an asylum claim in Europe. This is predominantly on the basis of family links followed by responsibility assigned on the basis of the State through which the asylum seeker first entered, or the State responsible for their entry into the territory of the EU Member States, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

The aim of the Regulation is to the ensure that one Member State is responsible for the examination of an asylum application, to deter multiple asylum claims and to determine as quickly as possible the responsible Member State to ensure effective access to an asylum procedure. Germany has made the decision to stop enforcing this rule where Syrian asylum seekers are concerned. From this point onwards, Syrian refugee applications will have to go through the regular asylum system.

However, following on from Germany’s decision to drop EU rules imposed by the Dublin Regulation, Sweden has announced that it will being to grant permanent residency to all Syrian refugees and asylum seekers. This decision comes as a result of the lack of resolution pertaining to the on-going conflict in Syria. Sweden’s decision means that around 8,000 Syrians who already have temporary residence in Sweden will now be able to apply to stay in the country on a permanent basis.

With these permanent rights of residency will come rights to bring one’s family members to Sweden. Any applicant seeking asylum in an EU Member State where a family member is currently permitted leave to remain as a beneficiary of international protection (regardless of where the family was originally formed) is eligible to apply for asylum in that same country in writing. For example, a Syrian located in Spain could express in writing their desire to join their partner recognised as a refugee in Italy.

Under the definitions provided within the Dublin Regulation, a ‘family member’ will include the following:

  • The spouse of an applicant or their unmarried partner (if the law of the EU Member State concerned recognises this) in a stable, subsisting relationship;
  • The dependant children under 18 of a couple as described above; and/or
  • In a situation where the actual applicant is unmarried and a minor, the father and mother or other adult/guardian responsible for the minor, unmarried applicant.

Concluding remarks

The efforts of the UK government to ‘do their part’ have been heavily criticised by both various political parties as well as the media. David Cameron has defended the government’s decision to accept 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, saying that “they will receive a warm welcome”. Cameron has said that there is no limit as to how many can arrive in the first year of his pledge. He has said though that plans for housing and schools must be in place before they arrive. Mr Cameron also dismissed claims that child refugees would be automatically kicked out of the UK when they reached the age of 18, saying the “assumption was they would be granted leave to remain”.

We are of the opinion that the Conservative government’s efforts are not enough. We feel that the situation needs to be handled with more urgency and that the UK should also take in some of those who have already reached Europe. Efforts need to take place and be made now, not five years down the line.