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3rd Jul 2022

Report: EU asylum plan likely delayed

  • Member states are unlikely to confirm plans to distribute asylum seekers until September (Photo: iom.int)

Emergency plans for national governments to distribute arriving Eritrean and Syrian asylum seekers will be likely delayed for months.

A European Commission spokesperson on Monday (8 June) said plans to disperse some 40,000 asylum seekers landing in Greece and Italy to other member states over a two-year period will still be discussed next week at a home affairs ministerial and at a summit at the end of the month.

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But no decision is expected before September, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The paper quoted Janis Berzins, spokesman of the Latvian EU presidency, as saying ministers are unlikely to rubber-stamp the proposal anytime soon.

“At next week’s justice and home affairs council, ministers will discuss the European Agenda on Migration. We don’t expect a decision,” he said.

If confirmed, the delay represents a blow to the commission’s idea on fast tracking the distribution by triggering a never-before used article in the Treaty.

The Treaty article allows the commission to bypass the European Parliament and go straight to national governments in cases where a member state is “confronted with an emergency situation, characterised by a sudden inflow of third country nationals”.

It then needs a qualified majority vote in the EU Council, representing member states, to become a reality.

The commission was hoping such a vote would take place at next week’s home affairs council in order to ease pressure on Greece and Italy.

Both countries have seen surges in asylum seeker arrivals.

For Greece, the number at 40,297 intercepted in the Aegean represents a six-fold increase compared to the same time last year, reports Kathimerini. A government official told the paper that around 80 percent are Syrian nationals.

In Italy, the numbers are above 50,000 for this year, sparking protests from some regional leaders who are now refusing to house new arrivals amid corruption scandals at state-run migrant reception centres.

Last weekend, some 5,700 migrants were plucked from the Mediterranean by the EU’s multinational flotilla and brought to Italy.

“So we see the issue needs to be addressed now and we are working very closely with the Council to prepare the home affairs council on the 16th of June. I have no further comment to offer beyond that,” EU commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud told reporters in Brussels.

A commission distribution key would determine how many each member state takes in based primarily on population size and GDP.

But the proposal has suffered a backlash from large member states, including France and Spain, who oppose binding quotas.

The commission’s emergency proposal, presented as part of a broader package on migration last month, was seen as stopgap solution until more complete legislation on relocation is proposed sometime near the end of the year.

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