The asylum plan of EU Commission head von der Leyen provides for faster deportations of refugees at the external borders. Pro asylum is appalled.
Faster decision, faster deportation – that’s what Ursula von der Leyen wants Foto: Stephanie Lecocq/Pool/reuters
The boss found fine words. In asylum and refugee policy, a “new balance between responsibility and solidarity” is necessary, said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels on Wednesday. “Our old system no longer works, we need a new start.”
Then came the hard facts – and they don’t look so nice. In future, according to the “New Pact on Migration and Asylum”, everyone arriving on Lesbos, in Sicily or elsewhere in the EU will be recorded and checked (“screened”) within five days.
Anyone who comes from a country from which less than a fifth of the asylum applications are successful ends up in the so-called border procedure: an accelerated procedure that ends with recognition or, more likely, deportation within 12 weeks.
Who will carry out these preliminary asylum checks and on what basis leaves the paper open. In several places there is talk of setting up a new EU asylum authority, but its competencies are not further named.
“Pilot project” Moria
The proposals are coordinated with Chancellor Angela Merkel, who currently holds the EU presidency. The Commission is essentially adopting a concept from the German EU Council Presidency. For the plan to take effect, the European Parliament and the member states still have to give their approval. The German EU Presidency no longer expects an agreement this year.
A “task force” in Brussels is now supposed to take care of the burned down camp Moria on Lesbos, which is to set up a “model project” on Lesbos. This is where the Commission’s new ideas should be the first to apply. Greece has already agreed to a “joint pilot project”, said von der Leyen.
Faster registration, faster decision-making, faster deportation, if possible at the external borders – these are the most important innovations proposed by the EU Commission in its “Migration and Asylum Pact”. Von der Leyen relies on speed and toughness and thus comes far towards unruly countries like Hungary or Poland.
Since the first attempt at a binding redistribution of refugees in 2016, which ended in scandal, Eastern Europeans in particular have opposed the admission of asylum seekers and torpedoed a quota system based on solidarity. And they do that, together with Austria, to this day. Instead, they called for borders to be secured and deportation to be expanded.
That is exactly what von der Leyen is now trying to do. There should be no binding quotas in the future either, an obligation to show solidarity only in exceptional cases. And European solidarity à la von der Leyen means: The EU states can voluntarily take refugees from Italy or Greece.
“Not all Member States will accept refugees,” said Migration Commissioner Margaritis Schinas realistically. For them there is now a “viable alternative”. It is called: “Deportation sponsorships”. In future, states will be able to “choose between admission and assistance with deportation,” said Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson.
For these “deportation sponsorships”, the commission calculates how many of those arriving in the EU should theoretically be accepted by each state due to its size. If countries do not take the corresponding number from the external border states, they can take care of the deportation of this number of other people.
If they do not manage to do this within eight months, for example due to illness or the lack of a return agreement in their country of origin, they have to accept the person themselves.
No farewell to Dublin
The EU Commission also wants to accelerate deportations differently. Brussels wants to appoint an “EU coordinator for returns”. External border protection is also to be “improved”. To this end, the Commission wants to further upgrade the border protection agency Frontex.
For Pro Asyl, von der Leyen’s proposal is a “diabolical pact of disenfranchisement”. In an initial reaction, the organization condemns the plan: With it, “the EU Commission betrays the asylum law and the human rights of those seeking protection,” says Günter Burkhardt, Managing Director of Pro Asyl, and calls on the EU parliamentarians to reject the draft.
In the past few years all attempts to reform the common asylum policy have failed. The often announced “Farewell to Dublin” did not succeed either. The Dublin rules stipulate that the EU state in which the person seeking protection first set foot on European soil is responsible for an asylum application. “We have drawn a line under the Dublin system,” explained Schinas. It was designed for a few asylum seekers and no longer fits the time.
In fact, the Commission is now sticking to the Dublin rules. Only the exceptions are slightly expanded: Certain applicants are to be distributed to other EU countries for their procedure in the future – for example if they have siblings there or have studied or worked there in the past. In some cases, however, this is already possible today.
Seehofer “never” against immigration
Von der Leyen also wanted to speak to Turkish President Recep Erdoğan on Wednesday. Merkel negotiated a controversial refugee deal with Erdoğan in 2016. The EU Commission is sticking to this and wants to expand it further.
However, it is unclear whether third countries such as Turkey or Tunisia are involved in the EU plans – and whether Hungary, Poland and other stubborn EU states also agree to the “pact”. Hungary is already signaling its rejection. The Hungarian government is sticking to its position that the “pressure of migration” must be warded off, it was said in Budapest.
Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer has already commented on the proposals: “We now have the opportunity to show the world that Europe stands together,” said the Minister. He emphasized that he had “never” been an opponent of immigration, but how it depends.
“We have to make sure that this remains on a manageable scale, which I always call ‘order’. Then that will also be accepted by the population. ”On October 8th, the EU’s Interior Ministers’ Council will discuss the proposals that are now available.
The negotiations are likely to drag on well into next year.