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European Parliament calls for more solidarity on migration as negotiations on issue approach

Migrants disembark from a ship in the Sicilian port of Catania, Wednesday, April 12, 2023.
Migrants disembark from a ship in the Sicilian port of Catania, Wednesday, April 12, 2023. Copyright Salvatore Cavalli/AP
Copyright Salvatore Cavalli/AP
By Vincenzo Genovese
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The vote by MEPs in Strasbourg on Thursday establishes the institution's negotiating stance, as it prepares to enter long-awaited talks with EU countries on the matter.

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The European Parliament approved on Thursday three key proposals on migration that aim to end the years-long standoff between EU member states on how to deal with the issue.

The vote by MEPs in Strasbourg establishes the institution's negotiating stance, as it prepares to enter long-awaited talks with EU countries on the matter. One of the most notable positions includes a binding solidarity mechanism to help countries experiencing pressure when it comes to incoming migrants.

Within its stance though, the principle of the Dublin regulation remains, which says that every asylum seeker coming to Europe must present their request in the first country of entry, but with some exceptions, such as family or educational ties a migrant could have with a particular member state.

One of the lead MEPs on the issue, Tomas Tobé, told Euronews that there are also some provisions included that would help distribute incoming migrants across the EU.

"It's binding to make sure that every member state contributes, but then what we offer from the European Parliament is that we should have flexible options, that people see some member states that will work with relocation, others might work with capacity building," the Swedish lawmaker said.

"And this is because we want to open up the deadlock that we have seen for years because something needs to happen now."

In 2020, the European Commission laid out a 'New Pact on Migration and Asylum' in an attempt to break the deadlock on migration between EU countries. 

The vote on Thursday was on this plan and according to MEPs, this solidarity that they are calling for could be expressed by relocating migrants from under pressure countries or by providing frontline countries with the resources to manage migratory flows.

Physical relocations are also an option within the ordinary rules, but would become binding when a member state calls for a “crisis” situation, as foreseen in another part of the Commission's migration pact.

The EU institution would then have to assess the crisis request and, if confirmed, set quotas of migrants to be deployed to other countries according to their population and GDP.

“Solidarity may have a chance, this is the precise point of this regulation," Juan Fernando López Aguilar said.

Mandatory relocation is a key sticking point for Mediterranean countries like Italy, which has registered a 300% increase in irregular arrivals by sea.

The current system of “voluntary relocations” has also not worked well, as despite several thousand pledges, only a few hundred people have been transferred so far from Italy to other countries.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella has previously labelled EU rules on migration as “prehistoric”, strongly encouraging the bloc to change them.

But this is only the first step on a long and winding road. 

According to Sara Prestianni from EuroMed Rights, EU member states will push hard for the aspects of the pact related to the external dimension of migration, like the border screenings or how to leverage countries of origin.

“The main fear in negotiating with the EU Council is that, instead of putting forward mechanisms of solidarity between member states, in the reception and integration, we favour the security approach that will lead to normalisation of detention and the acceleration of return procedures," Prestianni told Euronews.

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