Seeking asylum in the EU
: In search of solidarity and current protection challenges

  • Sarah Craig

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The question of States working collectively to respond and share responsibility for the world’s refugee population has long been a core concern for the international community. The prominent narrative by States, politicians and general society is that refugees are a cost economically, socially and also politically. A ‘burden’ to be shifted or avoided, yet rarely ever shared. How States allocate responsibility for protection is a contentious and complex issue, no more so than within the EU’s regional legislative framework of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). What is unique within this regional system, and the focus of this thesis, is that there is now a primary law obligation of solidarity and the fair sharing of responsibility between EU Member States. With the coming into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009, Article 80 TFEU provides that EU asylum policy (in addition to immigration and border control) ‘shall be governed by the principle of solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility, including its financial implications, between the Member States.’ A binding commitment which has yet to be achieved on the global scale.Despite this, the CEAS is at a critical juncture in terms of compliance. Numerousinterpretations and fluctuating understandings of solidarity combine in oftensuperficial pronouncements and wavering commitments in practice. The focus of this thesis is a very particular manifestation of solidarity within the asylum setting. Specifically, the allocation of responsibility for asylum claims amongst EU Member States and subsequently the current inequitable distribution of said asylum seekers. This thesis traces how the legislative framework at present, and proposals for reform, allocates responsibility for asylum claims internally amongst EU States. This thesis argues that the current legislative framework is operating in a ‘solidarity deficit’ model. As such, it is argued that the legislation at best permits, or at worst promotes, a lack of solidarity between States from the outset. This consequently ensures that asylum responsibilities are disproportionately shared between States; the fiscal cost borne by fewer States and the human cost borne by asylum seekers themselves who are considered ‘transferable’ by the legislation and politicians alike.

Thesis embargoed until 31st December 2027
Date of AwardDec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorColin Harvey (Supervisor) & Cheryl Lawther (Supervisor)


  • EU refugee law
  • asylum
  • refugees
  • human rights
  • international refugee law

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