March 5. 2024. 2:03

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EU to start talks on migration reform laws

Members of the European Parliament of the civil liberties committee adopted their position on key migration files on Tuesday (28 March), inaugurating the beginning of inter-institutional negotiations between the European Parliament and EU ministers.

The group of files is due to be adopted by the end of the current legislative mandate in Spring 2024.

The package is composed of different pieces of legislation, such as the ‘screening regulation’ which seeks to tighten controls at external borders for third-country nationals, another regulation which aims to create “centralised system for the identification of member states holding conviction information” of not-EU citizens, and other files which contains provisions, among others, for solidarity, relocation mechanism, as well as a regulatory framework for crisis management.

As reported by EURACTIV, the pact reaffirms the ‘Dublin’ system, which stipulates that asylum seekers arriving in EU territory must apply for international protection in the country they arrive in.

LEAK: Pact on migration and asylum reaffirms the ‘Dublin’ system

The European Parliament is demanding Asylum seekers arriving in the EU to apply for asylum in the country they arrive in, according to a leaked European Parliament draft position of the Pact on Migration and Asylum, obtained by EURACTIV.

The screening regulation, which enables the sharing of arrival data between EU countries, reinforces the Dublin principle by expediting registration procedures and discouraging ‘secondary movements’ between member states.

It is dedicated to those people arriving ‘irregularly’ to Europe, for instance, via land or after a search and rescue operation at sea, and to those applying for international protection at a border cross-point. The screening process can last up to five days, which can become ten during crises.

“The screening should help to ensure that the third-country nationals concerned are referred to the appropriate procedures at the earliest stage possible and that the procedures are continued without interruption and delay. At the same time, the screening could help discourage secondary movements in the Schengen area,” the text adopted states.

The same approach is visible in the words of EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, which in a letter sent to member states on 20 March said that onward travel to other EU countries must be disincentivised.

“We are also monitoring progress with implementation of the Dublin Roadmap, including registration in Eurodac [the EU’s asylum management IT system], supporting work that will reduce incentives for secondary movements,” von der Leyen wrote in the letter.

EU Commission wants to tighten controls at external borders

The European Commission is committed in tightening controls at EU external borders to make them more “effective” against irregular migration, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wrote in a letter to member states on Tuesday (20 March), seen by EURACTIV.

Eurodac is a regulation in function since 2003 and it is currently under revision, as EU institutions are negotiating an updated version that seeks to extended the system’s scope and reinforce the upkeep of the Dublin mechanism.

The latter file is a complementary one of the screening regulation and it consists of a database to support asylum procedures with mandatory registration of biometric data, such as fingerprints and facial images.

Detentions and human rights concerns

During the screening process at the external border of an EU member state, arrivals may be subject to detention up to five days, which can become ten during crises.

According to the German rapporteur of the screening file Birgit Sippel from the S&D group, the detention choice would be the “last resource” during the screening process, and according to her, the screening regulation is an “effective and harmonised procedure [which] helps us to uphold the right to asylum and respect of fundamental rights,” she told the press on Tuesday (28 March).

However, this part has been heavily criticised by The Left group at the European Parliament, which considers such a vote a “bad news for the individual right to asylum in Europe”.

“Once adopted, the proposals will in practice lead to systematic mass detention at the external borders. Even children as young as 12 can be detained at the border under certain circumstances. Additionally, in practice people will have no right to an effective legal remedy: People can be deported in the border procedure while still waiting for the outcome of their appeal against their decision,” German EU lawmaker Cornelia Ernst, shadow rapporteur of the screening file, told EURACTIV.

Solidarity, relocations, and crisis management

The pact also looks at the solidarity mechanism, relocations and crisis management.

EU countries can contribute in different ways in the solidarity mechanism. “Some times can be relocations, or financial support, other times can be other supports on the ground”, explained the Swedish EU lawmaker and rapporteur of the Pact of Migration and Asylum Thomas Tobé to the press on Tuesday.

As already reported by EURACTIV, to be eligible for relocation, third country nationals have to have already applied for international protection or have received refugee status, the period since which must not have exceeded three years.

The relocation involves so-called “contributing countries”, meaning those member states that accept receiving migrants from first arrival countries, termed “benefitting countries”.

The regulation for crisis management indicates the practices that have to be applied in a situation of crisis. First, the Commission is the institution entitled to assess whether there is a situation of crisis or not in concert with other institutions, agency and intergovernmental institutions.

A situation of crisis is defined as when a member state welcoming system is collapsing.

After the Commission acknowledges such a situation, mandatory relocation enters into force – legally biding – among those who decided to be a “contributing country”.

Next steps

The pact will be under negotiation between EU lawmakers and the Commission, which aim to approve them before February 2024, thereby concluding the legislative process before the next EU elections which will be held in May 2024.

Migration reform to be approved by 2024, say parliament leaders and diplomats

The European Parliament together with the permanent representatives of Czechia, Sweden, Spain, Belgium and France agreed to approve the Pact on Migration and Asylum by February 2024, to ensure that the legislation is adopted before the next European elections in May 2024.