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What is in the new EU deal on migration and asylum?

December 21, 2023 at 1:42 pm

European Union flags are seen waving outside the EU Commission Building in Brussels, Belgium. [Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency]

Yesterday, the European Parliament reached a deal which would thoroughly overhaul the EU’s legal framework on asylum and migration, breaking years of political deadlock.

According to the European Commission, the  Pact on Migration and Asylum is designed to manage and normalise migration for those arriving in the EU, establish a common approach to migration and create a more efficient system.

While European politicians have hailed it as a historic breakthrough that will fend off far-right populism, migration advocacy groups have said the new system will further undermine human rights and increase suffering for migrants.

The full text of the pact has yet to be released, and the deal still needs to be formally ratified. But here are some of the main details of the plan, according to European Parliament press releases:

Non-border states can accept migrants or pay host countries

Nations like Spain, Greece and Italy, at the periphery of the EU, have long complained that they face more pressure from migration than other nations. The so-called “mandatory solidarity” mechanism in the deal means that all member states will need to help out. How much they will help will be based on the size of each country’s population and its gross domestic product.

READ: EU agrees new rules on hosting migrants, and seeks to cut numbers

However, one of the more controversial elements is that countries will have the ability to decide whether they want to take in migrants directly through relocation, contribute financially and/or review documents. The regulation hopes to relocate 30,000 migrants and raise €600 million ($657 million). Migrants will not have a say regarding their relocation.

During crises, standard procedures may be suspended

The deal has established what will happen if one nation’s migration services are overwhelmed due to a massive influx of migrants. Under the pact, the European Commission would have to address the situation within two weeks, activating solidarity measures.

At the same time, the EU admits that in these types of situations, standard asylum procedures may be suspended. In that sense, the registration of asylum applications could take up to ten days and border procedures could be extended by an additional six weeks each. At the same time, people from certain countries could have their applications prioritised.

Up to 7 days of screening

The pact establishes that anyone crossing into the EU irregularly should be subject to pre-entry screening. This also applies to migrants already within the bloc who entered irregularly, though screenings would not have to be repeated.

The screenings can last seven days and include checking identification, taking biometric data, and health and security checks. If they are sick, migrants will have access to health care. While the details have not been released, the European Parliament says there will be a “strong, independent monitoring mechanism in each member state to protect fundamental rights of people undergoing screening.”

Faster border asylum procedures, deportations

Immediately after pre-entry screening, migrants from a country with asylum recognition rates below 20 per cent, who misled authorities or are considered a danger, will immediately be subject to the new border asylum procedure. Minors will be generally exempt. These procedures are set to be faster – up to 12 weeks. Applicants whose claims are rejected in this pathway should be “returned” in less than 12 weeks.

READ: Spanish refugee commission says EU migration pact undermines asylum rights

Meanwhile, each country will have a maximum number of applications they will be required to process in this system. Once that number is reached, all asylum applicants will go through the ordinary, as opposed to the sped-up procedure, to avoid overcrowding in the detention centres. For ordinary claims, there will be a six-month benchmark for a first decision.

More thorough identification

The final key point is a revised regulation about the collection of data. The new system will add facial images to existing fingerprint databases, as well as more information such as any decisions on their migration status.

Currently, this data is only collected for those older than 14. Under the new rules, it would apply to people over six years old. Spanish far-right Vox politician Jorge Buxade Villalba celebrated this in the European Parliament press release, saying it will prevent secondary movements and facilitate deportations for those without the right to stay.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.