The European Union (EU) has made progress in its ongoing efforts to address irregular migration and asylum application policy, following an agreement that introduced new rules to collectively manage the reception and relocation of asylum seekers. Over the years, the EU has struggled to ensure an appropriate review of a growing number of asylum applications and the provision of appropriate asylum conditions or receptions. This has been partly due to the growing volume of requests considering 962,000 asylum applications received in the previous year alone. It is also due to the Dublin regulations, that place the requirement for the first EU country an asylum seeker has entered to review the application.
While the EU policy has historically been widely contested, the new agreement garnered wider support than anticipated during the voting, with only Hungary and Poland opposing the final draft. Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Malta, Lithuania, and Slovakia abstained from the process. However, this voting outcome represents an important stride in achieving a consensus on what has often been a controversial subject.
These new rules are a direct product of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, a comprehensive proposal introduced by the European Commission in September 2020. In the new agreement, a noteworthy turning point has been reached since it proposes enhanced collective responsibility and clearer rules for the management of asylum seekers. Central to the pact is a system of "mandatory solidarity" among EU member states. In instances of a large number of asylum applications, the solidarity system provides three options to member states. They can either accept a predetermined number of relocated asylum seekers, finance the return of rejected applicants to their country of origin, or provide financial support for operational infrastructure and personnel. Importantly, this system offers flexibility to governments, allowing them to select the most suitable option.
There are also important economic implications under this agreement. There will be a minimum annual number for relocations from member states where most persons enter the EU to member states less exposed to arrivals. If a country refuses to accept a minimum annual number for relocations, such an action would require a maximum payment of €20,000 per relocation, which will then be funneled into a common EU fund. This represents a significant investment in the management of irregular migration and asylum procedures. The number of asylum seekers to be relocated is set at 30,000 per year, with extra provisions included should the commitments fail to meet the target.
Another important aspect is a set of rules for fast-tracking border procedures to examine requests from individuals who cross the borders irregularly. This is created to evaluate unfounded applications in which instance a decision can be made that a person is not eligible for asylum. The new proposal aims to ensure the asylum and return border procedure to require no more than 6 months.
Following the political agreement, the EU Council will begin negotiations with the European Parliament. The aim is to finalize the legislation before the upcoming EU elections next year. The ultimate goal of this reform being to establish a predictable and permanent system for managing migration. This new approach holds the promise of reshaping the EU's approach to asylum seekers and irregular migration. By fostering cooperation among member states, introducing clearer guidelines, and investing in infrastructure and resources, the EU is better placed to manage the complexities and challenges of asylum applications.
Photo: Antoine Schibler | Unsplash