In addition to looking at Turkish visa liberalization, the European Commission is also proposing wide scale changes to the Common European Asylum System, including reforming the outdated ‘Dublin System’. Over a million refugees entered Europe last year, most of whom hailed from Syria, where a civil war has killed more than 250,000 people and displaced more than 12 million since 2011, according to UN statistics.
According to an official press release by the European Commission, the new proposal will lead to a “fairer, more efficient and more sustainable system for allocating asylum applications among Member States”.
Attempts to set up a quota system for the management of refugees between member states of the EU have been firmly rejected by a number of European governments, including the UK. The Commission’s new plan, therefore, is far less ambitious and it has made it clear that “the basic principle [of the Common European Asylum System] will remain the same. Asylum seekers should apply for asylum in their country of entry”.
But under the proposal, member states experiencing disproportionate migration pressure would have recourse: if a country received applications for more than 150% of the number of migrants it is deemed able to accommodate, any additional asylum applicants would be relocated to other EU member states. These numbers would be calculated based on a state’s size and wealth. Additionally, member states refusing to take on relocated migrants would have to pay €250,000 for each rejected migrant.
Measures also include transforming the existing European Asylum Support Office (EASO) into a fully-fledged European Union Agency for Asylum and reinforcing the EU’s fingerprinting database, Eurodac, in order to better manage the asylum system and to help tackle irregular migration. The proposal would not, however, apply to the United Kingdom and Ireland. This is a result of the relevant Protocols attached to the Treaties today continuing to apply regardless of whether they nominate to opt in and to what extent.
These proposals form part of the European Agenda on Migration which is a “far-reaching strategy” to tackle the immediate challenges of the ongoing migrant crisis, as well as to equip the EU with the tools to better manage migration in the medium to long term. Their fate remains to be seen and the inability to achieve substantive reform within EU over the last two years has come at an unacceptable human cost. In 2015, almost a million people crossed the Mediterranean into Europe. Almost 4,000 drowned or went missing attempting to do so. 2016 so far has been worse with as many as 500 people estimated to have lost their lives on April 16th alone. Further failure to reform the European Asylum System in a comprehensive and meaningful way will only lead to more lives being lost