Friday

22nd Jan 2021

EU 'front-line' states want clearer migration rules

  • Greece, Italy, Spain, and Malta fear the latest EU commission proposal could lead to large camps (Photo: PES)

Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain are demanding clearer rules obliging EU states to take in migrants that land on their shores.

In a joint document, the four states outlined their views on the EU's new pact on migration and asylum.

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Among their demands is that the relocation of migrants remains not only mandatory, but also the pact's "main solidarity tool."

"We believe that the solidarity rules and the related commitment of all Member States must be clearly defined," states the paper, noting the system needs to guarantee predictability.

The vast majority of migrants and asylum seekers arriving in the EU first land in one of these four countries, often referred to as front-line member states.

Similar efforts over the years to relocate people elsewhere in the EU have met with stiff resistance from Hungary and Poland, among others.

The debate had killed off past proposals to overhaul EU migration laws despite getting rubber-stamped by the European Parliament

The European Commission in its latest proposal has since attempted to break the deadlock by also offering alternatives to relocation, including so-called return sponsorships.

EU commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas now calls it "permanent effective constant solidarity" in an effort to draw the widest appeal.

EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson has been more direct.

"It is mandatory to show solidarity and you can choose between return sponsorships and relocations," she had said.

But those views remain anathema to the EU's 'Visegrad Four' bloc, composed of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

Migrant ghettos

The commission had also proposed fast tracking asylum on the outskirts of the EU borders.

This includes filtering arrivals within five days and sending home anyone not likely to get international protection.

And some EU laws, for instance, when it comes to accommodation and food, will not apply because the screening will not technically take place on the territory of the EU.

The idea has not gone down well with Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain, who fear the fast tracking could lead to "large closed centres at the external borders."

They want the whole border procedure concept revised and remain in the hands of national authorities.

Money and equipment

Greece, Italy, Malta, and Spain are also pressing the EU to shore up more money and equipment for countries where many EU-bound migrants are from.

"This is not just a question of more money, rather of actions truly matching our partners interests," it states.

Such moves are likely to generate blowback from civil society, especially if the funds and equipment are channelled to the Libyan authorities.

But the paper also faults the commission's proposal for being too vague when it comes to relations with these countries.

It demands more clarity on financial aid and says political relationships must be forged and invested in.

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