Wednesday

2nd Dec 2020

Analysis

Between the lines, Europe's new Moria unfolds

  • Moria in Greece - before it was burned to the ground earlier this month (Photo: Save the Children)

The European Commission is adamant its new migration and asylum pact will not create refugee ghettos like its Moria hotspot on the Greek island of Lesbos.

It had made similar assertions when it first proposed the hotspot concept in 2015, promising efficient and streamlined asylum management.

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The European Commission official who declared himself the "father" of the hotspot concept, once described it as the beating heart of Europe's migration policy.

And in his former life as chief European Commission spokesperson, Margaritis Schinas declared that "nobody else in the world provides so generously for asylum" as the European Union.

Now the commission is doing its best to divorce itself publicly from a policy they themselves created only a few years ago, and which it then offloaded onto Greek and Italian authorities to carry out.

On Thursday (24 September), Schinas as vice-president of the European Commission said Moria, the overcrowded and now destroyed camp on a Greek island, is the result of a 'non-system', of a European migration policy that is lacking.

"Moria is not the result or the fault of Europe. Moria is the tangible example of the cost of non-Europe," he said.

Schinas is not entirely correct.

Under Greek oversight, the EU's asylum and support agency (Easo) has some 160 personnel deployed in various locations on Lesbos. This includes caseworkers, registration assistants, flow managers, reception assistants and interpreters.

The long-delayed asylum and migration pact finally announced last week is meant to overhaul and create that new migration policy leans heavily on similar wishful thinking that undermined the commission's policies of the past.

"The whole thing with the border procedure is to avoid people left in limbo like in Moria. This is a quick process," said EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johannson, noting some 140,000 people last year who had no basis for international protection.

Offshoring in all but name

The commission believes it will not take more than five days to shuffle everyone through a filtering system to check their identity, security status and health. If thousands show up at once, then it can be extended by another five days, it says.

Although rights monitors are supposed to be present, the commission has effectively offshored the screening in all but name.

It means people cannot contest anything, will not be informed of their rights, and will not have their applications for asylum registered over the screening period. That offshoring appears to also create a legal vacuum or limbo.

Article four of its proposal for a regulation on screening says people will not be authorised to enter the territory of a member state during the screening process.

That means some EU asylum laws will not apply.

"Articles 26 and 27 of the [APR] Regulation XXXX as well as the legal effects concerning the [Reception Conditions Directive] XXXX should apply only after the screening has ended," notes its proposal.

Article 26 requires authorities to inform people of their rights, while article 27 requires them to register their applications for asylum. The Reception Conditions Directive requires authorities to provide basics like food and shelter.

Once processed, they are either returned to their home countries, moved onto a 12-week border asylum procedure, or enter the asylum system. Young children skip the 12-week border procedure altogether.

"We exclude them from the border procedure so that we make sure that they do not go into this cumbersome, lengthy and often inhumane process," Schinas told MEPs on Thursday, in what appeared to also be an admission of what to expect later on.

People who come from countries where the asylum recognition-rates are below 20 percent will be pushed into the faster 12-week asylum track.

But should thousands show up all at once, then the 12-week period can be extended by another eight. The recognition percentage-rates are also increased.

The commission says its new solidarity proposal would help decongest the zones in crisis times, provided enough EU states agree to relocate them. Recent history tells us that is unlikely, even when enforced.

No detention, unless you want it

Johannson made other declarations, stating the commission are not proposing detention throughout the screening or border process.

Instead, the commission is leaving that discretion to the member states - much like it did with Moria and its other hotspots.

"The determination in which situations the screening requires detention and the modalities thereof are left to national law," says the proposal.

The same document also proposes setting aside EU funds to help pay for "infrastructure for the screening: creation and use/upgrade of the existing premises at the Border Crossing Points, reception centres etc.;."

So in effect the new pact hinges on implementation and good intentions of law-abiding member states. But as one proverb says, the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Others are just burned to the ground.

EU migration pact to deter asylum

The EU commission's newest pact on migration and asylum seeks to deter people from claiming asylum by speeding up procedures and sending most of them back home.

Legal complaint filed with EU Commission over migration

The European Commission is being legally pressed to investigate alleged infringements by Greece on migration and asylum - following reports of push-backs and the denial of basic rights for people demanding international protection.

Interview

Refugee who witnessed Moria fire describes 'hell'

Yousif Al Shewaili, a 21-year old from Iraq who obtained refugee status, witnessed the fires that struck Moria on Tuesday evening. He recounted that at least two people may have died.

Analysis

'Sponsored returns' may shuffle failed asylum seekers around EU

The European Commission is banking on cooperation and coordination among EU states to help makes its new migration and asylum pact viable. But its plan is already being greeted with suspicion by more hardline anti-migrant countries like Austria and Hungary.

EU demands answers on Croat border attacks against migrants

EU commissioner Ylva Johansson wants to send her officials to Croatia sometime this month to make sure authorities there are complying with fundamental rights following numerous allegations of violence against migrants and asylum seekers attempting to cross into the country.

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The European Ombudsman is launching a case into the lack of proper oversight by the European Commission when it comes to how fundamental rights of migrants and refugees are allegedly being violated by Croat border police.

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