6th Dec 2023

Most lawmakers unhappy with lead MEP's asylum bill

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Sweden's centre-right MEP Tomas Tobé is facing an uphill battle with fellow European lawmakers on his latest draft on a core asylum and migration bill, which he says aims to break years of political deadlock among member states.

With the European Commission pressing for the adoption of its asylum package, proposed last year, the latest debacle also bodes ill for a parliament seeking a unified negotiating mandate with the Council, representing member states.

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On Tuesday (26 October), left leaning and liberal MEPs also working on the bill, eviscerated Tobé's draft for carving out search and rescues and restricting family reunifications in a regulation governing asylum and migration management.

The European Commission's original draft provided for greater ease of family reunifications, proposing, among other things, that people who have obtained diplomas in a member state should be able to have their asylum request heard there.

It also included plans to help countries like Italy when it comes to sharing out arriving asylum seekers rescued at sea.

But Tobé has removed it, arguing that the so-called 'solidarity mechanism' on search and rescue would be better served under one overarching system.

"For me, I think it was important to make sure that we have one strong mechanism," he said, noting he was up for discussions on revisions.

Socialists say 'no' to Tobe

Aside from the far-right and conservatives, all other political groups took issue with it.

"We can't support this proposal," said Italy's centre-left MEP Pietro Bartolo.

French liberal Renew Europe Fabienne Keller made similar comments.

"I think this approach will affect the frontline member states who are already under a disproportionate amounts of pressure," she said.

"The relocation mechanism being removed after search and rescues is also concerning," she said.

French Green MEP Damien Carême is also unhappy.

"I am surprised by what you put forward as a middle ground," Careme said of Tobé's proposal.

"It would harm the frontline member states because they would be the only one who are responsible for new arrivals and for asylum seekers," he said.

German Left MEP Cornelia Ernst said she was shocked by the report.

"I wonder whether your colleagues in your group can even support this report," she said, referring to centre-right MEPs from Greece, Italy, Malta and Spain.

Tobé did get some support.

Far-right Italian MEP Annalisa Tardino of the Identity and Democracy Group welcomed his move on search and rescue.

"We appreciate that particular aspect of your report," she said.

So too did Italian Nicola Procaccini of the European Conservatives and Reformists Group).

"It would create a pull factor for irregular migration and would cause problems at sea," he said.

Studies have demonstrated that NGO presence at sea does not lure people to make the journey, a position endorsed by the EU's foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell.

MEPs will have an extra two to three weeks to table counter amendments to Tobé's draft.


Commissions's new migration pact still seeking 'landing zone'

Last October, the European Commission gave an optimistic outlook on the adoption of its migration and asylum pact. EU commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas said its pact on migration was lowering the landing gear - suggesting agreement was possible.


How to break the political deadlock on migration

We propose a mandatory solidarity mechanism that allows for flexible options. Every member state will have to contribute in one way or another - through either relocation, return sponsorship or capacity-building measures, writes EPP rapporteur Tomas Tobé MEP.

Lead MEP wants 'mandatory relocation' in EU asylum law

Spanish centre-left MEP Juan Lopez Aguilar chairs the European Parliament's civil liberties committee and is the lead on the crisis regulation, a bill presented by the EU commission last September as part of its migration and asylum pact.

Negotiations on asylum reform to start next week, says MEP

The European Parliament is seeking to launch negotiations on key asylum reforms with member states as early as next week. The demand follows Thursday's breakthrough political agreement in Luxembourg among EU interior ministers.

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