EU unveils plans to reform asylum rules to help frontline members
EU authorities in Brussels have called for a reform of European asylum rules to ease the strain on countries such as Greece and Italy that are struggling to cope with a large influx of people.
The centrepiece of a wide-ranging reform plan unveiled by the European commission on Wednesday is a shakeup of the Dublin regulation. Drawn up in the 1990s, the regulation requires refugees to claim asylum in the first country they arrive in, but has in effect been defunct since the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, announced last August that any Syrian refugee in Germany was welcome to stay there.
Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the European commission, said the current crisis showed the present system was not working. He set out two options for reforming Europe’s asylum policy. One option is the widely trailed idea of scrapping the Dublin system: the EU would have a mandatory redistribution system for asylum seekers based on a country’s wealth and ability to absorb newcomers.
A second option, known as “Dublin plus”, would preserve the existing rules, but would include a “corrective fairness mechanism” so refugees could be redistributed around the bloc in times of crisis to take the pressure off frontline arrival states.
Reform of EU asylum policy has also been firing up the UK’s EU referendum debate, with leave campaigners claiming that the Dublin rules are a bad deal for Britain.
The shakeup of the Dublin rules is only part of wider-ranging proposals that include a bigger role for the EU asylum agency, EASO, as well as the creation of an EU list of safe countries to increase the number of people returned after being refused asylum. The European commission also wants to see more legal routes to allow migrants to come to Europe “in an orderly, managed, safe and dignified manner”.
“Migration will be one of the main challenges the European Union will have to face in the long term,” said Timmermans. “This issue is not going away. Globalisation, climate change, war and instability, all mean that people will keep coming to Europe.”
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