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17th Apr 2021

EU asylum reform to include migrant-sharing law

  • The commission proposes to share asylum seekers according to "the relative size, wealth and absorption capacities of the member states" . (Photo: Fotomovimiento)

The European Commission is planning to propose a permanent migrant-relocation system in order to ease the burden on front-line states such as Greece and Italy.

The idea is set out in an options paper, seen by EUobserver, to be unveiled to press on Wednesday (6 April).

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  • "Migration will continue to be one of the defining issues for Europe for the coming decades" (Photo: frontex.europa.eu)

It envisages a “corrective fairness mechanism” that would allow “adjustments in allocation” among member states so that countries on the EU’s external borders are not overwhelmed.

The permanent relocation scheme would be triggered in cases of emergency based on a pre-defined threshold.

Another option, the paper said, is to establish a completely new system of allocating asylum applications in the EU.

Under current asylum law, the so-called Dublin regulation, EU states can forcibly return migrants to the country where they first entered the bloc and requested asylum.

The EU's 'defining issue'

But the new proposal said responsibility for asylum applications would be “primarily allocated on the basis of a distribution key reflecting the relative size, wealth and absorption capacities of the member states”.

It also said the asylum law reforms should discourage irregular movement of refugees between member states and crack down on migrants choosing which EU jurisdiction they file their claim in.

The commission is floating the ideas in the option paper before it presents a formal legal proposal on 4 May.

The current system has failed to cope with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of migrants. Thousands are stranded in Greece, and many people have drowned attempting to get to the EU.

The commission paper warned that people would keep on coming, and that migration would “continue to be one of the defining issues for Europe for the coming decades”.

It also said the EU needed young, skilled immigrants in order to offset its own ageing population and that Europe should create safe ways for people to claim protection.

One idea for the new law is to get states to agree a maximum duration of the asylum application procedure.

Another idea is to check if the person is still in need of protection before granting him or her long-term residence status or renewing their residence permit.

Sanctioning asylum seekers

The new law might also allow asylum seekers to be sanctioned for leaving the country where their case is being processed.

It would also be made clear that refugees are entitled to rights and benefits only in the country that has granted them protection. There would also be a possibility to detain people who have absconded or are deemed likely to leave.

The draft communication said there was a need to reinforce the Eurodac system, the EU’s migrant fingerprinting regime.

The EU commission proposed new powers for EASO, the EU’s asylum agency, saying that in future it would be able to monitor and evaluate member states’ policies.

EASO could step in emergency situations in EU states to assist in asylum case-handling and reception. It could step in even if the host states did not ask for it, along the same lines as a previous proposal for an EU border guard force.

Ideas on safe paths to EU protection included “structured” resettlement, setting out common rules for admission and distribution, and launching targeted EU resettlement initiatives.

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