World View: In Desperation, EU Tries to Overhaul Its Refugee Asylum Rules

AP Photo
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • In desperation, EU tries to overhaul its refugee asylum rules
  • As migrants turn to the Libya route, Germany warns Italy not to wave migrants through

In desperation, EU tries to overhaul its refugee asylum rules

Migrant children from Syria pose in front of a Protestant church in Oberhausen, Germany, November 19, 2015 (Reuters)
Migrant children from Syria pose in front of a Protestant church in Oberhausen, Germany, November 19, 2015 (Reuters)

Migrants who arrive in the European Union are required to register and lodge their asylum requests in the country where they first arrive. That country must then evaluate asylum requests, and either allow them to stay in that country or else deport them back to their countries of origin. The rules about registering migrants come from the Geneva convention, which was adopted by the EU in the “Dublin II” regulation of 2003.

The Dublin system was already under severe pressure before the migration crisis began. EU member states have been forbidden from sending asylum seekers back to Greece since the European court of human rights ruled in 2011 that conditions for refugees in Greece were so bad they were tantamount to “degrading treatment.”

In 2015, over one million migrants poured into Europe, a migration of historic proportions. They arrived mostly into Greece and Italy, but those two countries were unable to handle the volume, so the migrants were mostly just waved through to travel north, usually to Germany. Furthermore, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced last year in August that Syrian refugees were welcome to stay in Germany, essentially negating the Dublin II regulations, the asylum system collapsed completely.

European officials are now desperately trying to reform the asylum system by proposing modifications to the Dublin II regulations, to distribute the burden to all 28 countries in the EU. The European Commission is making two proposals:

  • Completely scrap the existing Dublin system, and then have a mandatory redistribution system for asylum seekers based on a country’s wealth and ability to absorb newcomers. Migrants would be redistributed regardless of their country of entry.
  • Keep the existing Dublin system, but include a “Dublin plus” provision that would preserve the existing rules, except that it would include a “corrective fairness mechanism” which would apply a mandatory redistribution system only at times of crisis, to take the pressure off of Greece and Italy.

Germany and Sweden, which absorbed most of the migrants last year, are in favor reforming the Dublin regulations.

Both proposals involve a “mandatory redistribution” scheme similar to the temporary migrant quota system that was enacted last year, and was an almost total failure. That scheme, proposed last year in September, was supposed to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy to other EU countries. Only about 1,100 refugees have been resettled so far.

Hungary and Slovakia opposed the migrant quota system last September but were outvoted, and they have filed lawsuits at the EU Court of Justice against the quota system. Unsurprisingly, they are now opposing the new mandatory redistribution reforms. The Czech Republic, Poland and Romania have also voiced opposition.

Tomas Prouza, Czech state secretary for European affairs tweeted on Wednesday: “Permanent quotas once again? How long will the EU commission keep riding this dead horse instead of working on things that really help?” AFP and Guardian (London) and EU Observer and EU Dublin II Regulations

As migrants turn to the Libya route, Germany warns Italy not to wave migrants through

On Monday, about 200 Syrian migrants that had arrived in Greece were deported back to Turkey, under the EU-Turkey deal that was signed las month. Under that deal, all “irregular migrants” arriving in Greece after March 20 are to be sent back to Turkey.

However, that entire process has been stalled. The EU-Turkey deal contains a bizarre “one for one” provision that specifies that for every Syrian migrant sent back to Turkey, Turkey will select another Syrian refugee from its refugee camps and send that refugee back to the EU, to be settled in some European country. And just as in the case of the mandatory redistribution proposals, there is no agreement on how to distribute the refugees returned from Turkey on the one for one deal.

Another problem is that any migrants arriving in Greece are to be given hearings to determine whether they are qualified to seek asylum. According to one report I heard, the Greek authorities are only able to process about 20 asylum registrations per day — and that does not include the hearings, which can take weeks.

The situation is complicated even further by the fact that a majority of the asylum-seekers in Europe are women and children, and nearly 10% of the women are pregnant.

The EU-Turkey deal that took effect two weeks ago has slowed the flood of migrants into the Greek islands from thousands per day to hundreds per day. That is because the word has spread that the route from Turkey through Greece and north through the Balkans to Germany is now apparently closed permanently.

The fear is that there will be another million refugees entering Europe in 2016, as happened in 2015. But since the Balkan Route is closed, the migrants and human traffickers will choose other, more dangerous routes.

It is estimated that up to 450,000 people will try to reach Europe this year by crossing the Mediterranean Sea from Libya. The EU has been focusing on the route through Turkey and Greece, but the Libya to Italy route has been almost completely ignored, because only 17,500 migrants arrived in Italy from Libya last year. But with the Balkan Route closed, many people expect the route from Libya will be used by hundreds of thousands of migrants, with the flood beginning in the next month as the weather warms.

However, Germany’s interior minister Thomas de Maizière warned Italy that its border with Austria, the Brenner Pass, would be closed if Italy simply tried to wave the migrants through to northern countries.

Many European officials are expressing the hope that the worst of the migrant crisis has passed. However, that is what they always say, whether it is Greece’s financial crisis or the migrant crisis. The Rube Goldberg EU-Turkey deal has no apparent chance of succeeding, and desperate people will reach their desired destination or die trying.

The reality is that we’re in a generational Crisis era in the midst of a massive historic population migration of people from war zones in the Mideast and Africa, and just putting up fences is not going to solve the core problem. No one has predicted the crisis so far, and the fact is that European officials have no idea what’s going to happen this year. Express (London) and International Business Times and Daily Mail (London)

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, European Union, Dublin II regulations, Greece, Italy, Germany, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia Turkey, Tomas Prouza, Czech Republic, Syria, Libya, Balkan Route, Thomas de Maizière, Austria
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