Thursday

7th Jul 2022

Decision on migrant-returns hits parliament logjam

  • EU reforms on migrant-returns has hit a political snag (Photo: Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI))

Member states are set to back tougher EU legislation on returning unwanted migrants when they meet in Luxembourg on Friday (7 June).

"It is an important file, a lot of effort has been put into it and I think this is an important step forward," an EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels on Wednesday.

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But their words are likely to meet short shrift from a European Parliament whose lead MEP on the file, Dutch Green Judith Sargentini, will no longer hold office in July.

To further complicate matters, Sargentini's draft report on the returns directive was never voted on in the civil liberties committee (LIBE).

EU legislation-making requires the input from the Council, representing member states, and the European Parliament before getting passed.

Without Sargentini and without a LIBE vote, it means there is no agreement on the political group level at the parliament.

The parliament's file on migrant-returns will instead be dumped into the "unfinished business" pile - along with other stagnating asylum and migration reforms.

Logjam

It is up to the so-called conference of presidents, composed of political group leaders, to decide on what to do.

But they won't know until after first receiving instructions from the new committees - sometime at the end of July.

The final decision will not then be made until September, after the holiday break.

An EU parliament source told this website it is unlikely Sargentini's draft report will even be considered in the next legislature.

"The case of a draft report by a rapporteur without any further modification by the committee, I very much doubt they are going to use it," said the source.

In addition, there is no guarantee that Sargentini's replacement will come from the same political group.

Sargentini had taken a critical stand against the commission's proposal, arguing that the criteria for detaining people was too broad.

The European parliament was not impressed either, given in part, that the proposed reform came last September amid stalled efforts to overhaul other European asylum and migration laws.

The move may factor into the next parliament's thinking, pushing the file further down its priority list.

The commission's proposed revamp includes speeding up the decision-making process, placing more people in detention centres, and forcing rejected asylum seekers to secure their own identity and travel documents.

Whatever the outcome, the agreement set to be reached by the home affairs ministers at their meeting on Friday in Luxembourg, is more words than deeds when it comes to internal migration and asylum reforms.

The return directive includes a provision on how to handle people at the borders, known as the border procedure. The border procedure is linked to another stalled filed called the asylum procedure regulation.

But because member states themselves cannot agree on the border procedure, they have decided to temporarily eviscerate it from the return directive in order to reach a "partial general approach" on Friday in Luxembourg.

"Following the requests from many delegations, the border procedure for returns has not be included in the general approach due to its link to the asylum procedure regulation on which no remit has been reached yet," noted the EU diplomat.

Infographic

Asylum seekers appealing returns must get own travel documents

The European Commission wants to increase the return rates of rejected asylum seekers, following pressure from EU states. But the reforms proposed seek to increase detention, and put people who are appealing their decisions at risk.

Opinion

Why a far-right surge won't change EU migration policy

The right-wing Eurosceptic Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD), Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF), and European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) groups hold 151 out of 751 seats - even large gains are unlikely to give them a majority.

Greece defends disputed media and migration track record

UN human rights council says push backs in Greece have become de facto general policy. Reporters without Borders says press freedoms in Greece are among the worst in Europe. Greece's PM refutes both to MEPs in Strasbourg.

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