EU takes first step on thorny asylum reform

EU takes first step on thorny asylum reform

EU takes first step on thorny asylum reform

EU takes first step on thorny asylum reform (Credit: Google)

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  • The European Union’s long-stalled efforts to reform its asylum policy.
  • The aim, to shift 10,000 asylum seekers from frontline states such as Greece.
  • Austria expressed hostility to the idea before the ministers’ meeting.
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The European Union’s long-stalled efforts to reform its asylum policy received a small boost Friday when France announced that “a large majority” of member states supported a migrant relocation plan.

In the final weeks of its EU presidency, France proposed a “voluntary solidarity mechanism” that would allow willing EU countries to accept asylum seekers from the bloc’s southern periphery.

Those unwilling to accept migrants, including several on the EU’s eastern border, but agreeing to the scheme would instead make a financial contribution.

The aim, according to several European diplomats, is to shift 10,000 asylum seekers from frontline states such as Greece, Italy and Malta to other EU countries in the first year. If the trial works, it can be renewed on an annual basis.

French Interior Gerald Darmanin, who presented the plan to EU counterparts at a Luxembourg meeting he chaired, told journalists that “more than a dozen countries have committed to put in place relocation mechanisms”.

They include France, Germany and Luxembourg. Germany Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said Bulgaria and Romania were also on board, adding that “only two or three countries came out against it” in the meeting.

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– ‘Solidarity platform’ –

Darmanin said a “solidarity platform” would meet in coming days to work out details of the plan, which remains a nonbinding text to which EU countries can opt out of.

The Netherlands and Belgium have said they will not be taking in asylum-seekers under the scheme, though diplomats said they might contribute in other ways.

Austria expressed hostility to the idea before the ministers’ meeting, saying the proposal would send a “wrong signal to people-smugglers”.

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Other countries such as Hungary and Poland have long resisted any compulsory migrant relocation scheme.

The EU commissioner for migration, Ylva Johansson, said she saw the step as an important move after spending many months in a failed bid to have member states adopt a broader asylum reform proposal the commission unveiled in September 2020.

“We can conclude that this has been an extremely successful council meeting,” she said.

The plan comes at a time that Europe was hosting more than four million Ukrainian refugees, who do not come under the EU asylum rules that are applied to other nationalities such as Syrians and Afghans.

The French plan emphasizes that the identification of asylum seekers entering the EU has been improved through the expanded use of Eurodac, a biometric database, and a new entry filtering system.

It also seeks to reduce so-called secondary movements, in which asylum seekers move from the country where they are processed to another, often wealthier EU member state, such as Germany or France.

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