“Exceptionally easy access to Europe” has been identified as “one of the main pull factors” for the influx of migrants, according to the President of the European Council.
Donald Tusk, a former prime minister of Poland, made the comments about easy access to Europe in his letter inviting fellow members of the European Council, heads of state or government of European Union (EU) member states, to a meeting on Thursday. Mr Tusk wrote:
We need to face real challenges and answer serious questions concerning our methods of action.
Let us be clear about one thing. The exceptionally easy access to Europe is one of the main pull factors. In this context we should consider:
1. The future of the Dublin system, which is now in force – whether to keep it as it is or to look for alternatives;
2. The specific role of hotspots in light of different opinions as to their character and purpose;
3. The strengthening of our external borders, including a possible EU border guard.
The ‘Dublin system’ to which Mr Tusk referred is the regulation intended to identify the Member State responsible for the examination of an asylum claim in the EU.
The regulation aims to avoid asylum seekers being sent from one country to another or being able to abuse the system by the submission of several applications. The country in which the migrant first applies for asylum is responsible for either accepting or rejecting the claim, and the seeker may not restart the process in another jurisdiction.
It is the regulation on which the Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán relied when initially refusing to allow migrants to pass through his country, and which German Chancellor Angela Merkel neutered when she opened Germany’s door to all Syrians reaching Europe.
The hotspot scheme is intended to help EU border countries deal with the crisis by screening incoming migrants more efficiently and then relocating certified asylum seekers to non-border countries. The relocation phase of the scheme has hit opposition from some EU leaders.
Mr Tusk highlighted the urgency of the issue to the various heads of state or government who received it, warning that any lull in migrant numbers which may come in the winter should not be taken as evidence the crisis has ended. He wrote:
Even if the influx of refugees slows down during winter, we must be ready for spring and the threat of bigger waves flowing to Europe. In fact, all the leaders I met in the region spoke about millions of potential new refugees. As exaggerated as this opinion may sound, it is our obligation to be prepared for all scenarios. We must ask ourselves if the decisions we have taken so far, and the ones we are going to take on Thursday, are sufficient to contain a new migratory wave.