I'd often heard here in Czechia that quota couldn't really distribute refugees, as everyone has the right to move freely within the EU.

Is the Schengen Agreement so strict it is

  1. So hard to adjust so that it's illegal to change your assigned country if you're an illegal immigrant?

  2. A right for everyone including people who have committed a trespass / a crime of coming to another country without a Visa (depending on the country)?

  • 9
    What do refugees have to do with illegal immigration? Refugees are legal immigrants. Otherwise, they wouldn't be refugees, which is a legal immigration status.
    – Brythan
    May 18 '18 at 6:14
  • 1
    Exactly. If they were "illegal", they probably wouldn't care much whether they are illegally entering an EU country instead of illegally residing in another anyways.
    – Annatar
    May 18 '18 at 6:36
  • 2
    @Brythan The states they come into don't have to recognize them as refugees and give them visas, which makes them illegal.
    – Probably
    May 18 '18 at 7:36
  • 2
    "as everyone has the right to move freely within the EU" - only EU citizens have freedom of movement in the EU.
    – Lag
    May 22 '18 at 7:06
  • 1
    "The states they come into don't have to recognize them as refugees and give them visas, which makes them illegal": that's true, if their claims of refugee status are insufficient, but such people would not be put into a quota system for refugees, because they wouldn't be refugees. So they wouldn't have an assigned country; they'd just be deported. So your questions 1 and 2 are not relevant to a discussion of the assertion you mention in your first paragraph.
    – phoog
    Sep 12 '18 at 4:02

Within the Schengen area there are supposed to be no identity checks when you travel across borders. Hence once someone is physically within the area there is nothing to stop them travelling to any other part of it (with the possible exception of travel across the sea, where you might need to show ID to get on a ferry or airplane). There might be a legal impact, in that someone's status could change from "asylum seeker" to "illegal immigrant" as they cross a border, but that may not be a significant obstacle.

However as a result of the migrant crisis some countries have re-imposed border checks within the Schengen Area. This Wikipedia page has a list, but you need to scroll down to the section "Effects on Dublin and Schengen rules".

  • 3
    It's slightly more subtle than that, in that spot checks, and similar non habitual police inspections were already allowed, however that obviously still means less disincentive for a sufficiently motivated person to transit illegally.
    – origimbo
    May 18 '18 at 10:47
  • How could it be that a legal impact wouldn't have any effect? I know there are quite significant money migrants get. And the migrants could be tracked by the police like anyone who tries to flee escape justice, right? In Czechia, we have a special office for controlling migration, and we have basically none
    – Probably
    May 24 '18 at 9:40
  • 2
    @Probably Someone who.has been granted asylum in a Schengen country will have a residence permit. That permit allows the person to spend up to 90 days in any 180-day period in the other Schengen countries. So these people can cross borders basically at will, but they cannot legally relocate to another Schengen country. They gain a right to settle in another country after 5 years and full freedom of movement if they naturalize. The presence or lack of internal controls doesn't affect those who've been assigned a country under the quota system.
    – phoog
    Sep 12 '18 at 3:39

The problem isn't in the Schengen Agreement, the problem is in the free travel right between EU states. Schengen makes it smoother, but it's ultimately the Maastricht Treaty which makes it a right.

The idea behind refugee distribution would be that refugees would get a refugee status from the EU, and then be distributed over the member states. The idea would be that this would deter economic immigrants from seeking refugee status, as they couldn't count on getting refugee status in the country of their choice. Real refugees on the other hand are fleeing from a country, and any safe country would be fine to them.

Eastern European countries did point out that this wouldn't deter those economic immigrants, as they could just wait until they receive EU citizenship and then still travel to their intended destination. While this is true, it would take years and that is likely a deterrent.

Schengen is irrelevant. It makes border crossings easy for tourists, truckers and business travel, but we were talking about migration. That's a far more permanent sort of border crossing.

  • 1
    The right of free movement applies to citizens of EU member states who want to move for work. ec.europa.eu/social/main.jsp?catId=457&langId=en. It does not apply to asylum seekers. This is why the "Jungle" at Calais exists: people who want to travel from France to the UK but cannot. May 19 '18 at 12:38
  • @PaulJohnson: that's why I specifically refer to Maastricht. You're referencing old rules, this is the current rule. Asylum seekers are not refugees, see Brythan's comment on the question.
    – MSalters
    May 20 '18 at 0:07
  • 2
    The idea that refugees "could just wait until they receive EU citizenship" is beyond ridiculous. There is no direct EU citizenship. You can only become a citizen of an EU country and get "EU citizenship" that way. And I don't believe there is a single country in the EU where you get citizenship just by waiting. You usually have to meet quite strict criteria and pass a tests for that to happen. For example it took Bruno Massot (Ice skater who won gold for Germany this year) 3 tries to actually pass the tests and get german nationality. May 22 '18 at 8:24
  • 2
    That's even more fantastic and removed from reality. Poland (And other EE countries) also has it's laws what's needed to get polish citizenship and cannot simply hand them out like candy. Apart from the fact that giving those refugees polish citizenship is probably the last thing that those that follow a very anti-refugee policy would want to do. And all of that also seems to completly ignore that the right to move doesn't include the right to claim any benefits from the country you move to May 22 '18 at 9:08
  • 1
    BTW. I understand that this might not be your own opinion and you are just reiterating the argument from some people from eastern europe. Still needs to be pointed out how stupid that argument is in my opinion. May 22 '18 at 9:11

The Schengen agreement (and the convention implementing it or the regulations replacing it) do not really prevent anything or say anything at all on the topic. The way Schengen figures into this is that lifting border controls means that it's much easier to move from one country to the next so that Northern countries were afraid to have to deal with a large number of refugees entering through other member states. That's why the EU devised the Dublin system and regulated asylum procedures in great details (through several other, separate, pieces of legislation).

The real obstacle here is international refugee law (and the EU directives implementing and extending it). They create very clear obligations towards refugees and the fact that someone went through other “safe“ countries does not exempt a country from these obligations. In practical terms, once someone is on your territory, if you cannot send them back to their country of origin, you have to find a solution. In spite of all attempts by the EU to introduce something like a quota system (and even if member states would consent to it), the very notion of “assigning” a refugee to a state is therefore fraught with difficulties, legal and practical.

Incidentally, under international and EU law, crossing a border irregularly is not a crime if you are a refugee. If you are threatened in your country, the fact you entered without a visa becomes irrelevant.

  • In Canada and the US, at least, refugees are indeed assigned to a certain place when they arrive. Of course they can't be compelled to stay there. But doing so does seem to result in a more even distribution than there would be if they were all allowed to chose their place of settlement. In the Schengen area there would be the added element that the residence permit would not allow them to move to another country for a few years. What are the difficulties, then? Why can't the Schengen area pool their refugee settlement?
    – phoog
    Sep 12 '18 at 3:48
  • @phoog That's the case in Germany too. But (1) that's in direct contradiction with international law (article 26 of the 1951 Convention) and (2) that's within a country. The Schengen area or the EU are not countries. So even if you ignore the legal objections and you try to force refugees to move to a specific country (Dublin is a step in that direction), you still depend on that country accepting this responsibility. If they don't (which is what happened with Dublin), you still need to find a solution for that person. That's the practical difficulty.
    – Relaxed
    Sep 12 '18 at 6:04

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