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20th Jan 2022

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EU states press for more detention, in asylum overhaul

  • Some EU states are pressing for more detention and fewer asylum rights, in bills reforming EU-wide rules on migration (Photo: ggia)
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Austria is citing hybrid-attacks in order to detain rejected asylum seekers for up to 20 weeks, along Europe's frontier borders.

And Poland says detained people should only be granted access to international protection if there is no threat to security, public order, or health.

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"In the present situation, on the Polish-Belarusian section of the state border, we have a similar situation, where access is severely limited or prevented," says Poland in an internal EU document dated 17 December.

"Austria could also imagine extending the time limit up to 20 weeks as foreseen in the 'Crisis Regulation'," says the document.

The ideas were floated in closed-door talks among member states on overhauling EU-wide asylum rules, first presented by the European Commission in September 2020.

A second internal document describes Austria's rationale by indirectly referencing the ongoing border tensions with Belarus as the so-called "hybrid attacks on European borders".

It calls for "accelerated border procedures with few exceptions" and "effective restriction of movement" as a common goal.

"We are still of the opinion that the detention of applicants should be given as an obligation and not as an option," said Romania.

Others are less convinced.

"We have concerns that a quasi-detention regime is being established," noted Bulgaria, in the same document.

The comments were made in wider discussions among EU states on a bill that sets out "common procedure for international protection in the Union."

The European Commission's original proposals seek to first screen people at the border over a maximum of five days.

They would then be either sent home or shuffled into a 12-week asylum procedure, including appeals.

Children under the age of 12 would be exempted.

"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," said European Commission vice-president Margaritis Schinas, last year.

Any would-be refugee whose nationality has a 20-percent recognition rate or below for asylum would be required to enter the border procedure.

But Austria also wants to "significantly raise the recognition rate", notes the document, forcing more people into a procedure Schinas described as possibly inhumane.

Slovakia backs Austria on the point. So too does Hungary, suggesting at least a 40 percent rate, or even higher.

As for children with families, Poland says they should not be excluded from the border procedure either.

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