The European Commission has made proposals to reform EU asylum rules in response to the chaotic arrival of over a million migrants and refugees last year.
Reflecting member states’ divisions, it has offered options for amending the so-called Dublin regulation:http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/home-affairs/what-we-do/policies/european-agenda-migration/background-information/docs/20160406/factsheet_-_the_dublin_system_en.pdf, by which people claim asylum in the first EU state they enter.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans told a news conference in Brussels: “The current system is not sustainable.”
“We need a sustainable system for the future, based on common rules, a fairer sharing of responsibility, and safe legal channels for those who need protection to get it in the EU.”
Outlining the two proposals, he said: “What we are putting on the table is two lines of thought. One being…you build on the existing Dublin Regulation and you add to that a mechanism that would support member states when they are overwhelmed by enormous numbers of refugees arriving in that member state. The other approach would be to have a mechanism that automatically already creates a European distribution of people who arrive in member states.”
The current system has left Greece and Italy unable and unwilling to offer asylum to all arrivals and seen many trekking north, prompting border closures that threaten the EU’s hallmark Schengen system of passport free travel within Europe.
Longer term, the Commission also proposes centralising the entire asylum process within EU institutions, rather than basing it on national laws – although this is very unlikely to find much support among member states for the time being.
Different asylum rules in EU states have also encouraged chaotic flows of potential refugees within the EU as they trekked from the frontline countries to Germany, Sweden and other states whose laws, or economic prosperity, offer them the most beneficial conditions.
The Commission outlined legal changes to harmonise asylum rules in EU states to prevent that in the future. It floated an idea to introduce legal punishment for irregular movements by non-Europeans between countries in the bloc and proposed a stronger mandate for the European Asylum Support Office.
In another plan likely to draw mixed response from EU states, the Commission said the bloc needed a long-term resettlement scheme to bring in people into Europe directly from crisis zones to create an alternative to the current chaotic and dangerous routes.
Separately, the Commission also rolled out on Wednesday a number of technical proposals to strengthen the bloc’s external borders in an attempt to tackle both the migrant influx and security threats following deadly attacks in Paris and Brussels.