EU's new migration pact comes under the spotlight with ministers amid internal divisions

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By Christopher Pitchers
EU's new migration pact comes under the spotlight with ministers amid internal divisions
Copyright  Nariman El-Mofty/Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

EU ministers met today to discuss the new migration pact, amid tensions between Member States over the proposal.

The meeting took place via video conference, allowing them to talk about the issue for the first time since it was announced in late September.

A major stumbling block has been the idea of mandatory relocation of asylum seekers arriving in Europe's coastal states, which countries like Poland, Hungary and Austria oppose.

But the new plan sidesteps this by allowing other countries to share the burden through logistical support or organising the return of unsuccessful asylum applicants.

However, the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, told Euronews that the new pact strikes the right balance.

"We have a very strong humanitarian angle in this proposal. We are standing up to defend the right to apply for asylum. We are doing new legislation to avoid push-backs at borders, we are taking the real step to do search and rescue so that those people can be disembarked on European soil with strong European solidarity," Johansson said.

But some refugee organisations have argued that the new pact's focus is wrong, which Sara Presitani from Euromed Rights, agreed with.

"It's quite clear first of all that the pact aims to rebuild mutual trust between Member States and not prioritise refugee and migrant rights," Presitani explained to Euronews.

The European Parliament could present a roadblock to the proposals passage though, as a large proportion of MEPs want mandatory relocation to be a foundation of the new agreement.

Juan Fernando López Aguilar, Chair of Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs said: "We welcome the proposal. It was about time. It was a promise made by President von der Leyen on the way to office and, of course, endorsed by Commissioner Johansson. We were waiting for it in this pandemic situation. But having said this, we want more and we will work hard to increase the standard because we want binding solidarity and shared responsibility."

The new migration pact's journey is only just beginning, but all the parties involved will be hoping for a swift resolution to an issue that has been on a long and draw out path.