EU strengthen efforts on asylum reform

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The European Union’s long-stalled efforts to reform its asylum policy achieved a small breakthrough on Friday when France said: “a large majority” of member states backed a migrant relocation plan.

The “voluntary solidarity mechanism” put forward by France in the final weeks of its six-month EU presidency calls for willing EU countries to take in asylum-seekers from those on the bloc’s southern periphery.

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Those unwilling to take in migrants, including several on the EU’s eastern rim, but still agreeing to the scheme would pay a financial contribution instead.

According to several European diplomats, the aim is to shift 10,000 asylum seekers from frontline states such as Greece, Italy and Malta to other EU countries in the first year. If the trial works, it can be renewed on an annual basis.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin presented the plan to EU Home Affairs ministers in Luxembourg and told journalists that “more than a dozen countries have committed to putting relocation mechanisms in place”.

Darmanin said a “solidarity platform” would meet in the coming days to discuss the plan’s details, which remains a nonbinding text that EU countries can opt out of.

The EU commissioner for migration, Ylva Johansson, said she saw the step as an essential move after spending many months trying and failing to persuade member states to adopt a broader asylum reform proposal the Commission unveiled in September 2020.

“We can conclude that this has been an extremely successful council meeting,” she said.

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The plan comes when Europe is hosting more than four million Ukrainian refugees, who do not come under the EU asylum rules applied to other nationalities such as Syrians and Afghans.

The French plan stresses that the identification of asylum-seekers entering the bloc has been enhanced with the enlarged use of Eurodac, a biometric database, and a new entry filtering system.

It also aims to minimise so-called secondary movements, where asylum-seekers move from the country where they are processed to another, often wealthier EU state, such as Germany or France.

 

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