A list of ‘safe countries’ to which their citizens can be fast-tracked home following rejected asylum applications is being drawn up by the European Commission. The step is being taken in order to deal with the migrant crisis currently threatening to overwhelm government authorities in several EU countries.
In an interview with the Europe 1 radio network yesterday, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said the list of ‘safe countries’ – those where civil and human rights are guaranteed – could be finalised before the end of the year. He said the EU had been working on a “common code of asylum” for a decade.
Having conceded that the European Commission has so far failed to address the migrant crisis, Timmermans said the list, expected to include some Balkan and African countries, will help streamline immigration processes.
The list will then be used to inform asylum application decisions as part of a collective response at European level. It will become difficult for migrants from ‘safe countries’ to prove they are at risk of persecution in their country of origin allowing their rejections to be fast-tracked, although asylum seekers from those countries will still be entitled to be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
Currently individual EU member states decide those countries they regard as safe, but this has led to some questionable decisions. By way of example, Timmermans explained:
“…in Germany, there are quite a few refugees who come from Balkan countries — countries that are candidates to join the European Union. We need to agree to return these people home, because they don’t have the right to asylum.”
Politico reports Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia are already deemed safe. In Germany some politicians want to add Albania, Kosovo and Montenegro to the list to help stem the flow of migrants which has seen that country receive a record number of asylum seekers so far this year.
Timmermans explained that for countries to be added to the list the EU will “need agreement” from those countries, adding “with those in the Balkans it is not difficult, but with African countries it is.” In this effort, Timmermans says “collective action” has a greater impact on those countries than individual member state responses.
He concluded saying “migration is a phenomenon that will not go away” so a codified system for the distributions of refugees is needed. That system will then be applied to every crisis, says Timmermans, “because we will not repeat the debate every time.”