Wednesday

21st Nov 2018

EU summit set to outsource asylum

EU leaders are set to endorse plans to create so-called "regional disembarkation platforms", according to draft conclusions of next week's summit seen by this website.

They will be in Brussels on 28 and 29 June, as part of a broader bid to settle contentious issues surrounding migration flows into the EU and how to process their asylum applications, in what is shaping up to be a crunch summit.

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  • EU leaders will be in Brussels on 28 and 29 June, in what is shaping up to be a crunch summit. (Photo: Consilium)

Plans to reach a political consensus on internal asylum reforms known as 'Dublin' is unlikely, as heads of state and prime ministers appear instead to be converging on other ideas for shoring up external borders.

The draft conclusions note that such regional disembarkation platforms, a novelty in terms of EU possible policy proposals, should provide "rapid processing to distinguish between economic migrants and those in need of international protection."

The aim, it says, is to "reduce the incentive to embark on perilous journeys."

The draft also says that such centres would be set up in close cooperation with the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

But a spokesperson at the UNHCR said they have yet to be approached about such plans, noting instead that they are working on resettlement programmes from Libya and Niger with talks to possibly create another in Burkina Faso.

Relatively few people under the UN schemes, financed by the EU, have actually been resettled to EU states.

France, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland took in a total of 173 people dispatched from Libya to Niger since the programme's launch last September.

Another 78 have since been accepted for resettlement and are pending departure from Niger to Finland, France, Sweden and Switzerland.

Meanwhile, an EU source told this website that the plan had been so far a secretive option but that the political situation in Germany and the fallout over the Aquarius migrant rescue ship had accelerated the discussions in the lead up to the EU summit.

The source said the possible plan is to create "safe harbours" close to Libya where migrants would be returned to after being plucked from the sea off the Libyan coast.

"There there would be an accelerated procedure, to see who's eligible for asylum," said the source.

It is unclear where such centres would be set up or if any of the regional states would agree to it.

Stop asylum seekers from moving across EU states

Angela Merkel, Germany's embattled chancellor, is facing a rebellion from the CSU (Christian Social Union) following proposals backed by German interior minister Horst Seehofer to prevent some asylum seekers from crossing into the country.

Merkel is seeking a European response to the issue - but on Monday appeared open to the suggestion of Italian and French ideas of having EU asylum applications processed outside the European Union.

The draft EU summit text also appears to have taken on board or left open the possibility of allowing Seehofer to carry out his plans.

It notes, among other things, that EU states should "take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures" to prevent asylum seekers from freely travelling across the bloc.

Czech Republic prime minister Andrej Babis on Tuesday said at the Prague European Summit, an EU affairs conference, that the EU still hasn't made up its mind on what to do on the wider issues of migration.

"The EU doesn't still know if its goal is to prevent illegal migrants or send to Europe everyone who jumps on boats a few metres from the African coast," he said.

"There are still those who don't realise that the first and foremost goal is to protect the outer borders of European seas," he added, referring to possible opposition to the latest plans.

Speaking alongside Babis, EU justice commissioner Vera Jourova made similar observations, noting that Europe was "overwhelmed by the number of refugees arriving" and that "no state can claim to be completely innocent."

She also admitted that the European Commission "also made mistakes".

EU migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, for his part, told reporters in Brussels following a meeting with Western Balkan interior ministers that Austrian ideas of creating camps in the region was not discussed.

"No discussions took place about setting up camps in Albania or anywhere else in Europe," he said.

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.

Belgian mayor invites Orban to migrant-diverse town

Winner of 'World's Best Mayor', Mechelen's Bart Somers has invited Hungary's PM to visit. "You know, in the whole of Hungary with 10million inhabitants, they have less Muslims than we have in a small city of 90,000," he told EUobserver.

Analysis

EU leaders take on migration to fight political crisis

The main objective of Thursday's summit in Brussels will be to agree on new measures to reduce illegal migration, in order to help Angela Merkel at home and fight populists and extremists across the bloc.

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