Migrant crisis: EU unveils fresh plans to reform asylum policy

  • AFP, Brussels
  • Updated: Apr 07, 2016 02:43 IST
First vice-president Frans Timmermans (left) and EU commissioner of migration and home affairs Dimitris Avramopoulos hold a joint press conference at the EU Headquarters in Brussels. (AFP)

A divided European Union on Wednesday unveiled a fresh plan to shake up its failed asylum policy and force countries to share the burden of its unprecedented migrant crisis.

Just days after Greece began expelling migrants to Turkey under a controversial swap deal, a top EU official admitted that the bloc’s current system was “not working”.

“We need to reform our European asylum system,” Commission vice president Frans Timmermans told reporters in Brussels, as the bloc battles its worst migration crisis since World War 2.

The influx of more than one million migrants fleeing war and poverty has put the bloc’s cherished border-free rules under severe strain and sparked sharp divisions among the 28 EU nations.

Under the bloc’s existing rules — the so-called Dublin system — migrants seeking asylum must apply in the country where they first arrive and are returned there if they move to somewhere else.

But critics have slammed this as obsolete and unfair to Greece and Italy, where most of the 1.25 million Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and other migrants entered the bloc last year.

The rules in any case fell apart in 2015 as Greece and Italy, overwhelmed by the crisis, simply waved migrants onwards to countries where they wanted asylum, like Germany.

Neither fair, nor sustainable

Timmermans said as he outlined two possible new approaches.

The first, dubbed “Dublin plus”, would be to keep the existing system but add a “corrective fairness mechanism” to redistribute migrants from a member state grappling with a sudden influx of refugees.

A majority of countries support this option, a European diplomat said.

A second, more radical, proposal would be to automatically distribute migrants across the EU based on member states’ population, wealth and capacity to take in newcomers.

This option had the support of Germany and Sweden, which have taken in the lion’s share of migrants, the diplomat said.

“Both options will provide much needed solidarity,” Timmermans added.

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