After years of division over how to respond to a big influx of migrants and refugees, the European Union has called for a compulsory system across the bloc to manage migration.
The German-backed pact would require all 27 of the EU countries to take part. Member states would either agree to takc in asylum seekers or take charge of sending back those refused asylum. Ursula von der Leyen, European Commission head called it a ‘European solution to restore citizens confidence’.
The recent fires which destroyed the Moria camp in Greece and which housed more that 12,500 migrants and refugees, was a ‘stark reminder we need to find sustainable solutions’ she added.
Ever since the influx of over a million migrants and refugees in 2015, mainly via Italy and Greece, the EU’s 27 states have been divided over how to respond, and the new pact has already attracted criticism.
Sebastian Kurz, Austrian Chancellor, cast doubts on the idea of distributing asylum seekers across Europe. “It won’t work like this” he told the AFP news agency.
Italy and Greece have accused wealthier northern countries of failing to do enough, but a number of Central and Eastern European nations have been openly resistant to the idea of taking in a quota of migrants.
The new pact which has been pushed most strongly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, proposes a “fair sharing of responsibilities and solidarity between member states while providing certainty for individual applicants”.
There would be:-
- New compulsory pre-entry screening involving health, identity and security checks
- A faster asylum border process involving decisions within 12 weeks and swift returns for failed applicants
The EU’s 27 countries would have ‘flexible options’ for how to take part, so countries such as Hungary and Poland that have refused to take in arrivals in the past would be asked to help in different ways.
- Taking in recent arrivals
- “Sponsoring”returns – ensuring on behalf of other states that people refused asylum are sent back
- Providing immediate operational support
Each state would be legally required to contribute their ‘fair share’ – based half on GDP and half on population size.
The European Commission President said the new pact would “rebuild trust between member states” and strike the right balance between solidarity and responsibility”.
Ylva Johansson, EU Home Affair Commissioner said she guessed that non one of the member states would be satisfied with the pact “but I think we would have 27 member states and parliament that would say it’s worth working on this”.
The new pact is also designed to replace the ageing Dublin rule, which requires asylum claims to be handled in the EU country where the applicant first enters the system.
Margaritis Schinas, Commission Vice-President said: “the old regulation was designed for a few people fleeing dictatorship, not today’s reality”.