Secondary movements refer to the mobility of “refugees or asylum-seekers […] from the country in which they first arrived to seek protection or for permanent resettlement elsewhere” (European Parliament, 2017, p. 1). The term is linked to a central principle of the Dublin system, i.e. the responsibility of the first State of entry for the asylum procedure. After highlighting the drop in “irregular arrivals” to the lowest level in 5 years, the latest Report on the implementation of the European Agenda on Migration indicates secondary movements as one of the unresolved main problems of the European Common Asylum System (CEAS).

These internal mobilities within the EU are often carried out by those who wish to reunite with a family member or friend, or by those who simply move in search of a better asylum system or a more profitable labour market (Brekke, Brochmann, 2015). Since this is not permitted under the Dublin Regulation, migrants and asylum seekers found in a country other than that of the EU State of first entry, in most cases, are sent back to the first-entry Member State (Brekke, Brochmann, 2015) in accordance with specific transfer procedures defined under the same Regulation.

In truth, Dublin provides for the “principle of discretion” for individual Member States, i.e. the possibility of derogating from the principle of the country of first entry (Article 17). Furthermore, the principle of first-entry country accountability for the examination of applications for asylum expires 12 months after crossing the border and after five months of continuous residence in another State, which will, in turn, become liable to examine a new asylum application.

It is not uncommon for the system to malfunction (e.g. low-quality fingerprint images first issued by migrants) thereby inhibitingthe identification of State responsibility with sufficient certainty (Belloni, 2016). The extent of secondary movements is such that their management has been at the centre of harsh disputes between first-entry countries (Italy above all) and other Member States (link Report on the Agenda Implementation). 

Brekke, J. P., & Brochmann, G. (2015). Stuck in transit: secondary migration of asylum seekers in Europe, national differences, and the Dublin regulation. Journal of Refugee Studies, 28(2), 145-162.

European Parliament, 2017, cfr.