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Asylum shopping is a term used mostly in the context of the European Union and the Schengen area to describe the practice by asylum seekers of applying for asylum in several member states or seeking to apply in a particular state after transiting other member states. Reasons for asylum-shopping behaviour may range from the legitimate (such as reunification with family already in the destination state or legal differences among states that would cause the individual to be recognized as a refugee in one state but not another) to the fraudulent (such as multiple applications filed in bad faith to obtain employment authorization or delay deportation).

One of the objectives of Police and Judicial Co-operation in Criminal Matters is to prevent asylum shopping[1]. The Dublin Convention stipulates that an asylum seeker is returned to the country where they first entered the Schengen area.

Channel Tunnel

The entrance to the Channel Tunnel at Coquelles in Pas-de-Calais, situated in Northern France is an infamous case study in asylum shopping. 'Asylum seekers' who had already reached several safe countries within Europe kept moving across the continent, with the intention to reach the United Kingdom.

By 1997, the problem had already attracted international press attention, and the French Red Cross opened a refugee centre at Sangatte in 1999, using a warehouse once used for tunnel construction; by 2002 it housed up to 1500 persons at a time, most of them trying to get to the UK.[2] At one point, large numbers came from Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, but African and Eastern European countries are also represented.[3]

Most migrants who got into Britain found some way to ride a freight train, but others used Eurostar. Though the facilities were fenced, airtight security was deemed impossible; refugees would even jump from bridges onto moving trains.

In several incidents people were injured during the crossing; others tampered with railway equipment, causing delays and requiring repairs.[4] Eurotunnel said it was losing £5m per month because of the problem.[5] A dozen refugees have died in crossing attempts.[2]

In 2001 and 2002, several riots broke out at Sangatte and groups of refugees (up to 550 in a December 2001 incident) stormed the fences and attempted to enter en masse.[6] Immigrants have also arrived as legitimate Eurostar passengers without proper entry papers.[7]

Local authorities in both France and the UK called for the closure of Sangatte, and Eurotunnel twice sought an injunction against the centre.[2] The United Kingdom blamed France for allowing Sangatte to open, and France blamed the UK for its lax asylum rules and the EU for not having a uniform immigration policy.[5] The cause célèbre nature of the problem even included journalists detained as they followed refugees onto railway property.[8]

In 2002, after the European Commission told France that it was in breach of European Union rules on the free transfer of goods, because of the delays and closures as a result of its poor security, a double fence was built at a cost of £5 million, reducing the numbers of refugees detected each week reaching Britain on goods trains from 250 to almost none.[9] Other measures included CCTV cameras and increased police patrols.[10] At the end of 2002, the Sangatte centre was closed after the UK agreed to take some of its refugees.[11]

See also


  1. ^ Select Committee on European Union Tenth Report, House of Lords
  2. ^ a b c Pierre Kremer (February 2002). "Sangatte: A place of hope and despair". The Magazine of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  3. ^ Caryl Phillips (17 November 2001). "Strangers in a strange land". The Guardian.,3605,595996,00.html. Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  4. ^ Avril Stephens (2007-07-31). "Desperate journeys fraught with danger". CNN. Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  5. ^ a b "Europe's most notorious refugee camp". BBC News. 2002-07-12. Retrieved 2006-08-05.  
  6. ^ Paul Webster (2007-12-27). "Police braced for new tunnel raid". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  7. ^ "UK/Ireland: Asylum (news digest)". Migration News. 1998 (?). Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  8. ^ "2001 World Press Freedom Review: France". International Press Institute. Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  9. ^ "Sangatte asylum talks due". BBC News. 2002-09-26. Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  10. ^ "Tunnel security to be tightened". BBC News. 2002-05-31. Retrieved 2006-08-04.  
  11. ^ Philip Delves Broughton and Andrew Sparrow (2002-09-27). "Blunkett reaches deal to shut Sangatte camp". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2009-02-25.  


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