The new “European Pact on Migration and Asylum” stipulates that countries that do not want to take in asylum seekers participate in the repatriation of those with rejected asylum applications or in the construction of refugee camps, according to international news agencies.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the solution would lead to a “fair and reasonable” balance between “responsibility and solidarity” of EU states, in order to convince countries that have refused mandatory quotas. refugees.
These are in particular the member countries of the Visegrad Group (Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia) and Austria. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said on Tuesday that a distribution of migrants between EU states “does not work”.
The long-awaited reform of the European asylum system, postponed several times after the failure of refugee quotas decided in 2016 after the 2015 wave of migration, also aims to protect NGOs that rescue migrants at sea and become criminally prosecuted. reason.
The new pact revises the principle of the “Dublin Regulations” which stated that the first EU country to reach a non-EU migrant is responsible for dealing with their asylum application.
However, the revision was requested exactly by the countries in the front line of the arrival of migrants: such as Greece or Italy.
According to the new proposal of the European Commission, the country that will examine the asylum application will be the one where the migrant has a relative or where he worked or studied.
In other cases, the first country of arrival will remain responsible for handling this request. However, this time, it can ask the European Commission, in the event of migratory pressure, to activate a “mandatory solidarity mechanism”.
Once the Commission approves the activation of this mechanism, it also decides the number of migrants that should be taken over by the other Member States in the country under pressure and all countries will have to make a contribution according to their economic strength and population, and for each adult migrant received Member States will receive 10,000 euros from the Community budget.
Furthermore, EU countries will be able to choose between receiving asylum seekers, contributing to the construction of refugee camps or financing the repatriation of those without asylum, the latter being mainly economic migrants who have left their country not because of any war, but for a better life in the EU, such as the case of Moroccans or Tunisians.
In the event of a crisis comparable to that of 2015, when more than one million refugees arrived in the EU, Member States’ options will be reduced to taking in migrants or repatriating those rejected, but if a country fails to repatriate within eight months to their country of origin the migrants whose expulsion she has assumed, then she will have to receive them on her territory.
However, these are unfeasible alternatives for small countries, which do not have the necessary means, a European source notes for AFP.
Moreover, some migrants’ home countries refuse to take back their citizens.
For such situations, the European Commission considers as a means of pressure the elaboration of annual reports on the capacity of each country to take over its citizens who have migrated illegally, a measure being the suspension of visas for countries that refuse to receive their own citizens.
According to European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, the EU currently has 24 readmission agreements with third countries, but “not all of them work”.
She was quoted as saying by The Guardian that the focus on repatriations reflects the changed reality of 2015. “We need to deal with the real situation and not deal with the situation that people have in their heads,” she told a group of reporters. . “Most of them [sosirilor] they are not refugees: two-thirds of irregular arrivals will have a negative decision. “
In 2019, 491,200 people were ordered to leave the EU, but only 29% were repatriated to their country of origin. Johansson said there can be no 100% efficiency of these repatriations.
An NGO has accused Brussels of giving in to anti-migration governments.
“The Commission has bowed to pressure from EU governments whose sole aim is to reduce the number of people receiving protection in Europe,” said Marissa Ryan, head of the EU’s Oxfam office.
Johansson, the Swedish commissioner, hopes taking over returns will be an attractive option for EU governments that do not want to accommodate asylum seekers. She insisted that the lack of historical ties with the Middle East and African countries should not be an obstacle to “return sponsorship”. She said her country had “invested heavily in Morocco and Afghanistan” to encourage these governments to take back their citizens.
The Commission also promises faster processes: it wants to introduce a rule that all arrivals should have their health and safety checks completed within five days. Despite a promised pilot program in Greece, it remains unclear whether the EU has the resources to speed up their slow-moving procedures in Greece and Italy.
EU leaders cut spending on migration and border control by 8.5 billion euros or 27% when they reached an agreement on the bloc’s next seven-year budget in July.
Germany, which holds the rotating EU presidency, said it aims to reach an agreement on the principles by the end of the year, while the Commission wants the legislation to be completed by June 2021.
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer described the plans as “a good basis for talks” with member states. “There is currently no functional European migration policy,” he added. “Europe’s fate will be determined by its migration policy.”
Greece has already had a positive reaction, government spokesman Stelios Patsos said on Twitter that the proposal means stronger border control and a “fair” division between responsibility and solidarity.
The EU’s external borders must remain “perfectly tight”, according to Hungary, while Austria warns that the compulsory redistribution of refugees to EU countries must not return “through the back door”.
“Since 2015, the Hungarian government’s position on migration has been clear and unchanged,” namely that “EU Member States must cooperate and reduce the pressure of illegal migration outside the EU,” the spokesman said. Hungarian government, Zoltan Kovacs, quoted by MTI.
“Aid must be provided where it is needed, not imported into Europe,” he added.
Slovenia, which, like Hungary, is on the external border of the Schengen area, deplored the fact that the “mandatory solidarity concept” was included in the proposal.
“It’s not good, because it feeds the divisions again,” a Slovenian government spokesman said.
More than five years after Angela Merkel opened Germany’s borders to hundreds of thousands of refugees, migration continues to divide the EU, although it has declined in intensity.
About 150,000 illegal migrants arrived in the EU in 2018, the lowest level in five years.
The appalling conditions facing some asylum seekers are seen as evidence of the EU’s failure. The UN Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration have warned that current EU policy is “unfeasible, unbearable and often has devastating human consequences”.
However, Le Monde points out that it is difficult to imagine that Eastern countries will easily accept the device for dividing migrants. And because they will no doubt maintain their refusal, they are offered an innovative measure: “sponsored returns”.
In the spirit of shared solidarity, they should organize and finance the return of rejected persons, with the possibility to choose between applicants according to their nationality.
And Le Figaro notes that Brussels is proposing an “à la carte solidarity” system to better distribute the burden on migrants.
But how it will be organized remains to be seen. Because the pact risks being a real bomb.
In order to avoid interminable negotiations between Member States, the Commission intends to provide an assessment of expected arrivals at the beginning of each year, as well as a breakdown of migrants’ relocation by country.
But will this scheme gain the support of the Member States? No one can make a bet, because everyone knows that unanimity will be needed.