Friday

18th Jan 2019

EU states set to back some asylum reform laws

  • There was a 44 percent drop in asylum claims last year, compared to 2016 (Photo: CAFOD Photo Library)

EU states this week are set to agree on three of the seven EU asylum reform laws first proposed by the European commission in the summer of 2016.

A senior European commission official on Monday (18 June) said provisional agreements have recently been reached on the following: qualification regulations, the reception conditions directive, and an EU resettlement agreement.

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EU states at the Council level are expected to back the files on Wednesday before eventually going for a plenary vote in the European parliament. All three are part a wider effort to reform the common European asylum system, which includes the contentious 'Dublin regulation' that determines the member state responsible for processing asylum claims.

Provisional agreement has already been reached on reforming the EU asylum agency known as Easo.

That means that Dublin, the asylum procedures regulation, and Eurodac, a fingerprint database for asylum seekers, remain to be sorted.

"It [asylum procedures regulation] won't be possible to reach an agreement on before the Austrian presidency," said Steven Ryan, a deputy head of an asylum unit at the European Commssion. Austria takes over the rotating presidency from Bulgaria on 1 July.

He said Eurodac negotiation talks are also continuing although an agreement is expected shortly.

The initial plan had been to advance all seven files as part of a single package given they are interlinked.

But political disputes over proposals in Dublin to distribute asylum seekers across member states have ravaged the talks, and exposed major divides within the European Union ahead of the EU summit later this month.

The European Commission has since proposed adopting Eurodac and Easo as stand-alone reforms.

The provisional agreements, which still need to be signed off by EU states, comes amid an upsurge in tensions over Dublin and threats by Germany's interior minister to block some asylum seekers from entering the country.

Meanwhile, German chancellor Angela Merkel is hoping to secure agreements with Italy and France in the lead up to the EU summit and stave off a CSU (Christian Social Union) rebellion, headed by Horst Seehofer, the German interior minister.

On Monday, she met with Italy's prime minister Giuseppe Conte where she also appeared to endorse ideas of having EU asylum applications processed outside the European Union.

"These are all questions that we will discuss in the coming months and where we want to work very closely together," she said.

Merkel is meeting with French president Emmanuel Macron in Berlin on Tuesday where the two will discuss similar issues, as well as other plans to reform the Eurozone.

EU asylum claims drop, Germany registers most

EU states, plus Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein, registered 728,470 asylum applications last year, a 44 percent drop compared to 2016. Germany had the highest registrations at 222,560, followed by Italy and France.

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France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Romania have agreed to relocate the 49 migrants stuck on two NGO boats moored, for almost three weeks, off Malta's coast.

NGO Mediterranean rescue standoff exposes EU rift

Conditions on the Dutch flagged Sea-Watch 3, an NGO boat with 32 rescued migrants onboard, continue to deteriorate - as EU states refuse to take them in. The youngest on board is a one-year old infant.

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