Migration in Europe: EU considers binding pact to “restore confidence”

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media legendEuropean Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says EU needs to build citizens’ confidence
The European Union has called for a mandatory bloc-wide system to manage migration, after years of division over how to respond to a massive influx of migrants and refugees.

The German-backed pact would require all 27 EU countries to participate.

Member States would accept to accept asylum seekers or take responsibility for returning those whose asylum has been refused.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called it “a European solution … to restore the confidence of the citizens”.

The recent fires that destroyed Moria camp in Greece, home to more than 12,500 migrants and refugees, were “a stark reminder that we must find durable solutions,” she added.

Since the influx of over a million migrants and refugees in 2015, mainly via Italy and Greece, the 27 EU states have been divided on how to respond, and the New Deal has already sparked reviews.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz questioned the idea of ​​distributing asylum seekers across Europe. “It won’t work like that,” he told AFP news agency.

Italy and Greece have accused richer countries in the north of not doing enough, but a number of countries in central and eastern Europe have openly opposed the idea of ​​welcoming a quota of migrants.

What is in the plan?

The new pact, which was most strongly pushed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, proposes “a fair sharing of responsibilities and solidarity between member states while providing certainty to individual candidates”. There would be:

  • New compulsory pre-entry check involving health, identity and security checks
  • A faster asylum process at the borders involving decisions within 12 weeks and quick returns for failed applicants

The 27 EU countries would have “flexible options” as to how to participate, so countries like Hungary and Poland that have refused to host arrivals in the past would be asked to help from different sources. manners.

  • Support for recent arrivals
  • ‘Sponsorship’ of returns – ensuring, on behalf of other states, that those refused asylum are returned
  • Provide immediate operational support
  • Each state would be legally required to contribute its “fair share” – based half on GDP and half on population size

The President of the European Commission declared that the new pact would “rebuild confidence between member states” and strike “the right balance between solidarity and responsibility”.

EU Home Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she believed none of the member states would be happy with the pact, “but I think we would have 27 member states and a parliament that would say it’s worth the work. on that ”.

The new pact is also designed to replace the aging Dublin rule, which requires asylum claims to be processed in the EU country where the claimant first enters the system.

Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said the old regulation was designed for a few people fleeing dictatorships, not for the current reality.

No easy fix for a long-lasting crisis

Analysis by Kevin Connolly, Europe correspondent

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Of all the problems that have plagued the European Union, none is more chronic or more corrosive than migration. The search for solutions began even before the upheavals of 2015 saw a million migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arrive on the shores of the bloc.

And the 2016 deal under which Turkey agreed to withhold some of that wave of humanity in return for substantial cash payments is now showing signs of strain. This leaves the EU countries where migrants first disembark – notably Greece and Italy – bearing the brunt of the burden.

But Poland and Hungary have resolutely resisted mandatory sharing plans in the past. Money or the EU’s plans for faster processing of asylum claims are unlikely to change their perspective.

Thus, when the European Commissioner for Home Affairs declares that “no one will be satisfied” with these new measures, she highlights the compromise she must find between humanitarian duty and political reality.

In addition, she also emphasizes the difficulty of resolving this long-standing crisis.

Why now?

The new pact, which was pushed most firmly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, was put forward in the wake of the fires in the Moria camp on the island of Lesvos.

The number of people arriving on European shores to seek refuge has fallen to around 55,000 so far this year and Ms Johansson has made it clear that the situation is now very different. “In 2015, we recorded 1.8 million irregular arrivals and the majority were refugees,” she said. The numbers were much lower now and the refugees were in the minority.

But the fires, which leveled the sprawling and overcrowded migrant camp on the island of Moria, have prompted European states to take stronger action and take charge of those who have been left homeless.

The plans, however, have already led the charity Save the Children to accuse the EU of not having learned “from its recent mistakes.”

media legendHas Greece become more hostile to migrants?

Earlier this month, Germany said 10 European countries had agreed to take in 400 unaccompanied minors who had fled the Moria camp fire. The majority of them will go to Germany and France.

Faster returns for migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected are also planned, with increased support for third countries affected by migration.

Anita Bay Bundegaard of Save the Children said plans to give special attention to children were welcome, but the charity feared the new plans “risk repeating the same flawed approach” that led to the fire of Moria and previous catastrophes.

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