Asylum: Brussels unveils the contours of a new European policy
End of Dublin, hardening of returns and acceleration of procedures, strengthening of external border controls: Brussels unveiled on Wednesday a strict reform of asylum in Europe. The main elements of this plan, which has not yet been accepted by all EU countries.
The European Commission presented, on Wednesday 23 September, a new “European Pact on Migration and Asylum” to find “lasting solutions” to the situation of migrants in Europe. This eagerly awaited pact – which is for the moment only at the planning stage pending validation of the 27 countries of the European Union (EU) – includes several major changes compared to the current European migration policy.
Here are the main proposals:
The end of Dublin
As a first important element, the plan revises the principle according to which the first country of entry of a migrant into the EU is responsible for processing his asylum application. In other words, it provides for the end of the Dublin regulation.
According to the Commission proposal, the country responsible for the asylum application could be the one in which a migrant has a brother or sister in whom he has worked or studied. It can also be the person who issued a visa to a migrant. Otherwise, these countries of first arrival will remain responsible for the request.
A “compulsory solidarity mechanism” accessible to countries under migratory “pressure”
If a country is under migratory “pressure” and considers that it cannot support migrants, it can request the activation of a “compulsory solidarity mechanism”, which must be decided by the Commission. In this case, the European executive assesses the number of migrants to be taken care of and all the States are involved, according to their economic weight and their population.
These countries then have the choice between welcoming asylum seekers, “sponsoring” the return to their country of migrants who do not have the right to remain in the EU, or participating in the construction of reception centers in particular.
Reinforced controls at the EU’s external borders
Outside of Europe, controls will be stricter. “In this new system, there will be new mandatory checks at all borders (…). All arrivals will be subject to rigorous health security and identity checks, requiring immediate reorientation of staff to the appropriate procedure”, Explains the vice-president of the European Commission Margaritis Schinas.
Expedited processing for migrants “unlikely” to obtain protection
A fast-track process is also planned to deport migrants who are unlikely to obtain international protection sooner, the Commission said. These are those who come from countries with a positive response rate to asylum requests of less than 20%, such as Tunisia or Morocco. For the latter, the asylum request would be processed at the border and within 12 weeks.
“More effective” referrals and accountability of countries that refuse asylum seekers
The EU aims for “increased efficiency in the return” of illegal migrants to their country of origin, in particular by the appointment of a coordinator and an intensification of negotiations “with the States of origin.
In order to circumvent the persistent refusal of several countries, in particular those of the Visegrad group (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia) to welcome migrants, the plan also provides that EU countries that do not wish to welcome migrants in the event of an influx of the latter, will have to participate in the return of people who have been refused asylum from the European country to their State of origin. Furthermore, if a state fails to return migrants to their country of origin within eight months, it must accept them.
Humanitarian aid ships at sea safe from justice
A solidarity mechanism is also planned for rescues carried out by humanitarian ships. The plan proposes to protect NGOs rescuing migrants at sea from prosecution.
These various proposals have not yet entered into force, but this plan seems to be the result of long months of discussions between the 27 Member States of the European Union, accustomed to disagreements on the thorny issue of migration. Brussels also admitted that it had not implemented a relocation quota policy, decided after 2015. The principle of a binding distribution of migrants was therefore abandoned.