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19th Jan 2020

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland face EU threat on asylum

  • This year up until August, Norway received over 8,000 asylum applications (Photo: Alexander Shchukin)

Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein will have to agree to relocate asylum seekers in the latest EU scheme or face possible penalties.

Refusal could see them booted out of the Dublin regulation, which requires the country in which asylum seekers first enter the EU to handle applications for asylum on behalf of everyone else.

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The stiff condition is part of a larger legislative proposal on a permanent relocation system for asylum seekers announced on Wednesday (9 September) by the European Commission.

If they refuse, then “the agreement whereby they remain a part of Dublin is terminated but the joint/mixed committee can decide otherwise”, said one EU official.

A second EU official added that the legal situation remains unclear and will be discussed later.

But the proposal on paper is explicit and laid out in bold print.

It notes all four countries will have to accept Dublin “and its development without exception.” They will have no say or input in amending Dublin, nor will they have any say on the Commission’s relocation plan.

“They do not take part in the adoption of any acts amending or building upon the Dublin acquis”, it says.

Dublin is a cornerstone of EU asylum laws but has come under severe pressure as thousands of people seeking refuge continue to enter the EU on a daily basis.

Denmark’s railway company DSB suspended services to Germany on Wednesday after Danish police stopped a surge of hundreds of migrants.

Last month, Germany suspended the EU rule for Syrians in order to process their asylum applications more quickly.

Greece also saw over 213,000 people arrive on its shores this year, 145,000 have arrived in Hungary, and some 115,000 have arrived in Italy. Many are allowed to slip by standard registration and move further north to demand asylum in Germany or Sweden.

Returns of migrants to Greece was ruled out following a 2011 European Court of Human Rights ruling on “degrading” conditions in Greek migrant holding centres.

Meanwhile, in Strasbourg, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs that the EU had also committed to resettling over 22,000 UN-recognised refugees from outside of Europe over the next year.

Norway also pledged to assist, accepting 3,500 out of the total, while Switzerland pledged 519 relocation spots. Others, such as Hungary, offered no help whatsoever.

Pay not to relocate

The Commission’s emergency plan to relocate 120,000 from Italy, Greece, and Hungary also includes a "temporary solidarity clause" that would allow member states to avoid taking in the asylum seekers for up to one year.

The clause can only be triggered by the European Commission, and only if the member state is struck by a natural disaster, such as floods.

But it would also require the member state to pay an amount equivalent of 0.002 percent of its GDP into the EU budget as a result.

EU vice-president Frans Timmermans told reporters in Strasbourg that “it is not a buy-me-out-of-this ticket”.

Norway turns back migrants without visas

Norway, a non-EU member of the passport-free Schengen area, plans to toughen immigration rules including turning back aslyum seekers from Sweden and other countries trying to enter without a visa.

Hungary boosts border control, holds army exercise

While the number of migrants arriving in Hungary increases by the day, the army holds an exercise to strengthen border control, and the country gets ready to implement controversial new legislation to keep migrants out.

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