Foreign Ministers from France, Germany and Italy have put their names to a joint letter that highlights “the shortcomings” of the European asylum system. In light of events unfolding on the shores of Turkey and borders of Hungary the call for a common EU asylum policy is likely to be well-received in other nations, putting further pressure on Britain’s membership negotiations.
For some time now Italy called for an EU immigration and asylum policy – something that would require the reform of existing legislation – but Germany and France have added their voices to the campaign as pressure mounts for the so-called Dublin Regulation to be reformed to allow for what they call “a fair distribution of refugees” throughout Europe.
In force in various forms since 1990, the Dublin Regulation sets out how to identify the EU Member State responsible for assessing an application for asylum. In basic terms it obliges refugees to make their case in the first country they reach when entering the EU, and then to register there if the asylum application is successful.
This is the rule which Hungary has been relying on today in refusing to allow migrants to leave for Austria or Germany before being processed. In doing so Hungary acts in marked contrast to Italy and Greece which northern countries accuse of failing to identify, assess and register new arrivals, allowing them to move on to apply for asylum in a preferred destination such as Germany or Sweden.
The EU asylum policy letter was addressed to the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Vice-President of the Commission Federica Mogherini, ahead of the informal foreign minister meeting in Luxembourg this Friday and Saturday, reports The Local.
“The current refugee crisis is putting the European Union and all of its member states to a historic test. Over the past weeks, this crisis has become even more dramatic.
“Europe must protect refugees in need of protection in a humane way – regardless of which EU country they arrive in.
“A more efficient asylum system for persons in need of international protection goes hand-in-hand with a more efficient repatriation policy of irregular migrants at the EU level, with the aim of granting refugee status rapidly and efficiently to those who are genuinely in need of international protection.”
David Cameron’s EU negotiation team will be looking on with some trepidation at calls for an EU asylum policy, conscious of the fact that any movement in that direction could open a new front on which he would rather not have to fight.