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19th Jan 2020

Germany and France want unified asylum response

  • Merkel: 'Germany and France expect all member states to implement fully the right of asylum' (Photo: bundeskanzlerin.de)

France and Germany are pushing for a more unified asylum system, as Berlin opens its doors to Syrians.

On Monday (24 August) in Berlin, French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel pledged to step up efforts on sharing the increased numbers of migrants entering the EU.

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“Germany and France expect all member states to implement fully the right of asylum”, said Merkel.

Hollande said in a statement that “a unified system for the right to asylum” is needed.

"Rather than wait, we should organise and reinforce our policies, and that is what France and Germany are proposing”.

With Germany projecting to receive some 800,000 asylum applications this year as the numbers of people seeking refuge in Europe surge, the meeting came after Berlin suspended point-of-entry rules under the EU’s so-called Dublin regulation for Syrians.

Germany will now process asylum claims from Syrians regardless of where they first entered the EU. The move to cancel the Dublin transfer point of entry means Syrian asylum seekers will be immediately processed in its regular asylum procedure.

Germany registered 44,417 applications from Syrians in the first six months of this year.

Altogether, some 340,000 migrants were detected entering the EU during the same period and another 2,300 died in the attempt.

Many are fleeing persecution and war but are caught in bottlenecks on Greek islands like Kos and Lesbos and border towns in Macedonia. Greece on Monday said it is unable to cope with the flows, with thousands of Syrians being ferried from the islands onto the mainland.

Authorities in Macedonia last week clamped down on the asylum seekers but have since allowed them to continue their journey through Serbia and into Hungary.

But Germany is increasingly frustrated with the piecemeal approach on asylum from some member states and backs a European Commission plan to create a new permanent system of emergency refugee-sharing.

The commission proposal is to be announced before the end of year but is likely to meet stiff resistance from member states after they rejected a temporary mandatory quota system over the summer.

Instead, they opted for a voluntary system that fell short of a target to relocate some 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece over a two-year period.

Hungary refused to take in any and instead opted to build a 175km fence along its border with Serbia. But some 1,000 migrants still managed to cross into Hungary on Monday evening.

Frontex, the EU border agency, says over 100,000 people took the Western Balkan route at the start of the year. In 2014, during the same period, the figure was around 8,000.

Merkel and Hollande are now pushing for the EU to come up with a safe country of origin list where asylum seekers can be quickly returned.

Interior ministers in July called for the Western Balkan nations to be on such a list. Some 40 percent of all German asylum applicants come from the region.

The German chancellor on Thursday will be attending a summit in Vienna with Western Balkan leaders.

The summit, initially slated to discuss regional co-operation and prospects for joining the EU, is now likely to be dominated by migration.

The commission, for its part, says it is finalising a region-wide support programme on migration management in the Western Balkans and Turkey. The €8 million programme will start in September.

Maja Kocijancic, spokeswoman for EU regional development commissioner Johannes Hahn, in an email said it will focus on the “identification of migrants, intra-regional and interregional information sharing, and on mechanisms to offer return solutions, while applying practical protection safeguards to reflect specific needs of migrants”.

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