Wednesday

24th Jan 2018

EU launches migration cases against Croatia, Greece, Hungary, and Italy

  • Migrants arriving on the shores of Greece: not all are registered (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

The EU Commission stepped up pressure on Hungary, Italy, Croatia, Greece and Malta on Thursday (10 December) to register all migrants and refugees entering the EU and to follow European rules in dealing with asylum claims.

The EU executive started legal procedures against Croatia, Greece, and Italy for not registering migrants and refugees in the EU-wide fingerprint database, Eurodac, when they first arrive on the continent.

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The commission said that between 20 July and the end of November Frontex, the EU’s border agency, found that 65,000 migrants arrived by sea in Italy, whereas 29,000 were fingerprinted and entered into the database.

In Greece, 492,000 arrivals were registered and only 121,000 fingerprinted.

Croatia, which was hit by a massive flow of people after Hungary erected a fence along its Serbian border in September, saw 340,000 people arriving since 16 September and only registered 575 in Eurodac.

“What is needed is systematic registration,” said commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud, noting that the EU is sending Frontex officials to these countries to help with registration.

Member states often register migrants in their own databases, but they are not accessible through the Eurodac system.

The capitals say the massive number of arrivals means there is no time to register everyone in Eurodac, which has been criticised for being time-consuming.

Registering new arrivals would help with security, as national police forces and Europol can compare fingerprints linked to criminal investigations with those in Eurodac.

The commission first flagged up the issue to the three countries in October, but nothing changed.

Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano said it would be “unreasonable” of the European Commission to open infraction proceedings against Italy.

“For the work we've done, the only thing we deserve from the EU is a thank you,” Alfano said according to ANSA news agency.

The EU also stepped up efforts to force Malta and Greece to transpose EU asylum rules fully, especially with regards to adequate reception facilities.

The member states have two months to make their cases, and if the commission still thinks they’re breaking EU rules, they can go to court.

Hungary in the spotlight

The EU executive also opened an inquiry into recently adopted asylum laws by Hungary, which rights groups say go against the country’s international obligation to give protection to people fleeing war.

The commission is concerned that, under the new measures, there is no possibility to refer to new facts and circumstances during appeal.

In other concerns, Hungary isn’t suspending decisions in case of appeals, so people asking for asylum in Hungary are forced to leave the country before the case has been heard.

The commission also raised concerns that during the fast-track procedures asylum seekers often do not have access to translations of their official documents and interpreters are not readily available.

The Hungarian government said the commission’s procedure is “unjust and unfair.”

“The infringement procedure is the revenge of the political groups that disapprove of Hungary’s policy of protecting borders,” Janos Lazar, minister for the office of prime minister Viktor Orban told press Thursday,

He added that the commission is going against Hungary because it went to court challenging the refugee quota to distribute people among EU member states, according to MTI news wire.

Lazar said the government maintains that the asylum rules are in line with human rights obligations, and Hungary is willing to go court over the issue.

The commission has already raised concerns over the new asylum laws adopted by Hungary this year, but Hungarian authorities have not been able to solve all concerns.

Accelerated procedure

Under the rules, claims by asylum seekers who manage to enter Hungary at official crossing points from Serbia can be rejected in under 15 days through an accelerated procedure, and could are forcibly returned to Serbia.

However, in protest against the fence, Serbia is not taking everybody back, and according to the BBC, around 1,000 refugees, most of them from war zones in Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, are being detained in overcrowded Hungarian prisons.

“Taken together, these measures make it nearly impossible for asylum seekers to get protection in Hungary, a violation of the country’s international obligations,” Human Rights Watch, a New York-based NGO, said in its overview of the new asylum laws in September.

EU refugee relocation grinds to near halt

Two months after agreement, only 160 refugees have been relocated from Greece and Italy, with just two EU "hotspots" out of 12 up and running.

Greece wants migrants to apply for asylum wherever they want

Greek ministers are demanding the EU revamp Dublin and remove its point-of-entry criteria. The move is unlikely to receive a warm reception amid a Franco-German push to strip Greece of its sovereign right to patrol its own borders.

EU border control plan faces resistance

Ministers agree need to better protect external border, but Hungary and Poland critical of plans for EU border force with "right to intervene" even if states don't want it.

Macron eyes France-UK border agreement

French president Macron wants the UK to take in more refugees as he revisits the 2003 Le Touquet agreement, which allows British border controls to take place inside French territory.

Magazine

The asylum files: deadlock and dead-ends

The EU is reforming a number of internal asylum laws, but lack of staff, politics, and the sheer complexity of the bills means deadlines - like those announced by EU council chief Tusk - are likely to come and go.

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