Sunday

22nd Oct 2017

Opt-outs to poke holes in EU migration policy

  • In terms of absolute numbers, Germany hosts the most Syrian refugees (Photo: Songkran)

Germany, Sweden, France, and Italy last year accounted for almost two-thirds of all positive decisions on asylum claims in the EU.

The figures, released on Tuesday (12 May) by the EU’s statistical office, Eurostat, say 185,000 people were granted protection in 2014, up almost 50 percent on to 2013.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Around a third are Syrians, with most ending up in either Germany or Sweden.

The figures put into perspective a controversial proposal by the European Commission to impose a mandatory distribution system on asylum claimants and refugees throughout the EU.

Germany and France back the plan, but resistance has already surfaced from the UK and Hungary.

“This proposal ... was partly inspired by proposals made by France. It's reasonable that there should be a redistribution of the numbers in the European Union,” French interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve told RTL on Monday.

The UK Home Office, for its part, told British media it “will oppose any EU commission proposals to introduce a non-voluntary quota.”

Human rights NGOs like the idea, but say using criteria like GDP and population size to distribute people neglects their personal needs.

Some migrants might have family in one member state but could be dispatched to another to fulfill the new quota.

The idea, which is part of a much larger EU agenda on migration, is set for official release on Wednesday.

A leaked 16-page draft of the policy notes the commission will table legislation by the end of 2015 “to provide for a mandatory and automatically-triggered relocation system”.

The draft says the commission plans to trigger, by the end of May, an emergency response provision in the EU Treaty to distribute "persons in clear need of international protection."

The provision can be used in case of a “sudden inflow of nationals of third countries” but needs a qualified majority vote in the EU Council, representing member states, to be adopted.

The European Parliament only has to be consulted and has no real input.

UK, Ireland, and Denmark

Not everyone will have to join the new emergency system, but legal wrangling is already taking place.

The UK and Ireland have special “opt-in” rights in the area of freedom, security and home affairs – including everything that concerns asylum and migration.

The two negotiated their positions when the EU asylum rules were revamped in 2013.

It means they have three months to decide after a proposal is presented if they want to participate.

"They can choose if they wish to participate in the measure or not," EU commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud told reporters in Brussels.

Denmark, for its part, has an “opt-out” clause and doesn’t participate at all in justice and home affairs issues.

All three are full members of the EU’s flagship asylum policy, known as the Dublin regulation.

The EU-wide rule requires the point of entry country to process asylum claims on behalf of all member states.

Game changer on Dublin rules

But imposing a mandatory quota system may generate wider legal implications on who processes and deals with asylum claims in the first place.

“It will be hugely controversial politically,” said Sergio Carrera, a migration expert at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies.

“It will change the rules of the game because Dublin has a very clear criteria on entry. Now responsibility will be determined differently if this goes ahead”.

He added: “How you are going to prevent that we end up with a system, which has the same Achilles heel as Dublin, meaning that the personal circumstances and situation of the asylum seeker is not taken into account? This will be a major weakness.”

Kris Pollet, a policy advisor at the Brussels-based European Council on Refugees and Exiles, said the redistribution rules and opt-outs could create diverging asylum reception standards.

“It might get more difficult to transfer asylum seekers to these countries [UK, Ireland, and Denmark],” he said.

He also noted that sending an asylum seeker based on bureaucratic criteria neglects their needs.

“Most likely it might result in people ending up in countries like Latvia or Slovakia where there is little prospect for them to integrate,” he said.

Military action underpins EU migration plan

The EU commission has unveiled its migrant quota system, as ministers get set for talks on military operations to destroy migrant smuggler boats in Libya.

France opposes EU migrant quotas

France and Poland have joined a growing list of EU states opposed to the European Commission's migrant quota proposal.

EU gives thumbs up to US data pact

Commission gives 'thumbs-up' to controversial Privacy Shield deal with US on data sharing after a year's operation - but notes room for improvement.

News in Brief

  1. Rajoy to trigger Article 155 on Saturday in Catalan crisis
  2. EU conducts unannounced inspection of German car firm
  3. Lithuania calls for new EU energy laws
  4. EU leaders aim for December for defence cooperation
  5. Juncker says hands tied on Russia pipeline
  6. Czechs set to elect billionaire Andrej Babis
  7. Italian regions hold referendums on more autonomy
  8. EU leaders refuse to mediate Catalonia conflict

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi Jinping Proposes Stronger Global Security Governance at Interpol Assembly
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaEU Engagement Could Contribute to Lasting Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh
  3. UNICEFViolence in Myanmar Driving 12,000 Rohingya Refugee Children Into Bangladesh Every Week
  4. European Jewish CongressBulgaria Applauded for Adopting the Working Definition of Antisemitism
  5. EU2017EENorth Korea Leaves Europe No Choice, Says Estonian Foreign Minister Sven Mikser
  6. Mission of China to the EUZhang Ming Appointed New Ambassador of the Mission of China to the EU
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU Should Seek Concrete Commitments From Azerbaijan at Human Rights Dialogue
  8. European Jewish CongressEJC Calls for New Austrian Government to Exclude Extremist Freedom Party
  9. CES - Silicones EuropeIn Healthcare, Silicones Are the Frontrunner. And That's a Good Thing!
  10. EU2017EEEuropean Space Week 2017 in Tallinn from November 3-9. Register Now!
  11. European Entrepreneurs CEA-PMEMobiliseSME Exchange Programme Open Doors for 400 Companies Across Europe
  12. CECEE-Privacy Regulation – Hands off M2M Communication!

Latest News

  1. The mysterious German behind Orban's Russian deals
  2. Mogherini urged to do more on Russian propaganda
  3. Turkey funding cuts signal EU mood shift
  4. Posted workers top EU agenda This Week
  5. Leaders lobby to host EU agencies at summit's margins
  6. Legal tweak could extend EU control on Russia pipeline
  7. Ukraine language law does not harm minorities
  8. EU begins preparations for Brexit trade talks

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA-EuropeHealth4LGBTI: Reducing Health Inequalities Experienced by LGBTI People
  2. EU2017EEEHealth: A Tool for More Equal Health
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism a Key Driver for Job Creation and Enhanced Competitiveness
  4. CECENon-Harmonised Homologation of Mobile Machinery Costs € 90 Million per Year
  5. ILGA-EuropeMass Detention of Azeri LGBTI People - the LGBTI Community Urgently Needs Your Support
  6. European Free AllianceCatalans Have Won the Right to Have an Independent State
  7. ECR GroupBrexit: Delaying the Start of Negotiations Is Not a Solution
  8. EU2017EEPM Ratas in Poland: "We Enjoy the Fruits of European Cooperation Thanks to Solidarity"
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina and UK Discuss Deepening of Global Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceEHLA Joins Commissioners Navracsics, Andriukaitis and Hogan at EU Week of Sport
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Representative Office Opens in Brussels to Foster Better Cooperation
  12. UNICEFSocial Protection in the Contexts of Fragility & Forced Displacement