Auteur: Eszter Zalan
The European Commission is planning to propose a permanent migrant relocation system in order to ease the burden on frontline states such as Greece and Italy.
The ideas are set out in an options paper, seen by EUobserver, to be unveiled to press on Wednesday (6 April).
It envisaged a “corrective fairness mechanism” that is to be based on a distribution key that would allow “adjustments in allocation” among member states so that countries on the EU’s external borders are not overwhelmed.
The permanent relocation scheme would be triggered in cases of emergency based on a pre-defined threshold.
Another option, the paper said, is to establish a completely new system of allocating asylum applications in the EU based on a distribution key.
Under current asylum law, the so-called Dublin regulation, EU states can forcibly return migrants to the country where they first entered the bloc and filed for protection.
Discouraging irregular movements
But the new proposal said “responsibility [for asylum applications] would be primarily allocated on the basis of a distribution key reflecting the relative size, wealth and absorption capacities of the member states.”
It also said the asylum law reforms should discourage irregular movements of refugees between member states and crack down on cherry-picking of which EU jurisdiction they file their claim in.
The options paper comes ahead of a formal legal proposal, due on 4 May, on how to overhaul Dublin.
The current situation has created huge bottlenecks in Greece and, earlier, in Italy. It has also led to thousands of drownings because people can only claim asylum after they have reached EU shores.
The commission paper warned that people are going to keep coming. “Migration ... will continue to be one of the defining issues for Europe for the coming decades,” it said.
It also said the EU needs young, skilled immigrants in order to offset its own ageing population and that Europe should create safe ways for people to claim protection.
One idea for the new Dublin law is harmonisation of the maximum duration of the procedure, both at first instance and at the appeal stage, and could mean uniform rights to be offered to asylum seekers in member states.
Another idea is check if the person is still in need for protection before granting him or her long-term residence status or renewing their residence permit.
Sanctioning asylum seekers
The new policies might also include sanctioning asylum seekers who flee the country where their case is being processed.
It would also be made clear that refugees are only entitled to the rights and benefits in the country that has granted them protection. There would also be a possibility to detain people who have absconded or who deemed likely to leave.
The draft communication said there’s a need to reinforce the Eurodac system, the EU’s migrant fingerprinting regime.
The EU commission proposed new powers for EASO, the EU’s asylum agency, saying that in future it would be able to monitor and evaluate member states’ policies.
EASO could step in emergency situations in EU states to assist in asylum case-handling and reception. It could step in even if the host states did not ask for it, along the same lines as a previous proposal for an EU border guard force.
Ideas on safe paths to EU protection included “structured” resettlement, setting out common rules for admission and distribution, and launching targeted EU resettlement initiatives.