Europe seeks to over­haul de­funct mi­gra­tion poli­cies


The Euro­pean Union's ex­ec­u­tive pro­posed on Wed­nes­day over­haul­ing the bloc's bro­ken mi­gra­tion and asy­lum rules, seek­ing to end years of feuds and bit­ter­ness over the hun­dred of thou­sands of peo­ple flee­ing wars and poverty in the Mid­dle East and Africa.

The most con­tentious el­e­ment would im­pose a le­gal obli­ga­tion on each state to host some refugees - some­thing east­ern na­tions in­clud­ing Poland and Hun­gary are dead against - as well as help­ing in other ways un­der "manda­tory sol­i­dar­ity".

Each state would re­ceive 10,000 eu­ros ($11,750) per adult taken in, funded from the bloc's bud­get. End­less rows over where to lo­cate refugees and mi­grants have caused bad blood be­tween the Mediter­ranean-shore coun­tries where they mainly come, the reluc­tant eastern­ers, and the richer north­ern states where many of the new ar­rivals as­pire to live.

The bloc was caught off guard in 2015 when more than a mil­lion peo­ple made it to EU shores, over­whelm­ing se­cu­rity and wel­fare net­works, and fo­ment­ing far-right sen­ti­ment. "Mi­gra­tion is com­plex, the old sys­tem to deal with it in Europe no longer works," Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Ur­sula von der Leyen said, un­veil­ing the new blue­print. "Mo­ria is a stark re­minder," she added, re­fer­ring to a fire that de­stroyed a mi­grant camp on the Greek is­land of Les­bos this month.

The bloc's top mi­gra­tion of­fi­cial said the 2015/16 cri­sis was over, with the EU now re­ceiv­ing some 1.5 mil­lion net new for­eign­ers com­ing legally to live and work per year, com­pared to only 140,000 asy­lum seek­ers ar­riv­ing ir­reg­u­larly.

"We need these peo­ple," said Swedish EU Home Af­fairs Com­mis­sioner Ylva Jo­hans­son. The ex­ec­u­tive Euro­pean Com­mis­sion's plans to over­haul its de­funct sys­tem in­clude scratch­ing a rule that the first EU coun­try of ar­rival be re­spon­si­ble for asy­lum re­quests, which put too much bur­den on Mediter­ranean na­tions.

Un­der the new pro­posal, those ar­riv­ing would be as­signed to spe­cific coun­tries based on fam­ily links, his­tory of ed­u­ca­tion or work, or hav­ing a visa is­sued by a mem­ber state.

The 450-page pro­pos­als here span­ning five dif­fer­ent pan-EU laws put em­pha­sis on send­ing back those who fail to win asy­lum. "It's nec­es­sary to have the ac­cep­tance of EU cit­i­zens to re­lo­cate (host) those who have the right to stay to be able to send back those who are not el­i­gi­ble," said Jo­hans­son.

The plan, in­tended to be in place from 2023 but sure to stir up heated dis­putes, would also aim to open more le­gal routes for mi­grants, and work more closely with coun­tries host­ing and man­ag­ing peo­ple be­fore they reach Europe.

It would also put EU coun­tries with ex­ter­nal bor­ders un­der closer mon­i­tor­ing to en­sure they do not vi­o­late the law af­ter re­ports of push­backs in Hun­gary, Croa­tia, Greece or Malta. Un­der the plan, peo­ple res­cued at sea would have to be re­lo­cated in the bloc - rather than sent back - and Brus­sels said char­i­ties in­volved in res­cues should not be crim­i­nalised.


Refugees take rest on road af­ter fire guts their shel­ters on the is­land of Les­bos in Greece.

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