Cecilia Wikström: EU asylum policy needs profound change

Swedish ALDE group MEP Cecilia Wikström has called for an end to ad hoc responses to Europe's migrant crisis.

Cecilia Wikström | Photo credit: European Parliament audiovisual

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 Mar 2017

Speaking on Tuesday, she said the increased migration flows to Europe and the thousands of refugee children currently missing throughout Europe show the limits of the current EU asylum system. 

She told a news conference, "We are facing a new situation that demands profound change.

"It is the current absence of a properly functioning EU asylum policy that has seen the reintroduction of border controls and so many ad hoc emergency measures."


She added, "It is this sort of thing - the ad hoc approach to the asylum policy - that must come to an end."

She was addressing reporters in Parliament ahead of presenting her report on the reform of the Dublin regulation - which clarifies which EU country is responsible for processing asylum seekers - to the civil liberties committee on 9 March.

Outlining her main proposals she said EU policy should be able to tackle asylum issues "wherever they occur."

This should mean, she noted, tackling difficulties not just in southern European countries like Greece and Italy, but in eastern Europe as well.

In April 2016 the European Commission proposed a reform of the common European asylum system (CEAS) to create a fairer and more sustainable system for allocating asylum applicants among member states. 

The proposal identified five areas. One of them was the Dublin system which, says Wikström, has shown its inadequacies under the strain of the huge volume and concentration of refugees and immigrants. 

The Dublin regulation establishes which EU member state is responsible for the examination of the asylum application. 

The rules aim to ensure quick access to asylum procedures and the examination of an application in substance by a single member state.

However, the system, said Wikström, was not designed to ensure a sustainable sharing of responsibilities across the EU.  

Calling for changes to the so-called admissibility checks, she said, "What is important here is for us to act as a Union, where everyone shares responsibilities with each other in a fair manner."

She said that had this happened in 2015, at the height of the refugee crisis, it was estimated that every small European city with a population of 10,000 or less would have received 30 individuals, or three or four families, seeking asylum.

The principle of the current regulation is that the responsibility for examining an asylum claim lies with the member state where the asylum seeker first arrives in the EU.

Family unity and protection of unaccompanied minors are the main reasons for derogating from these rules. According to Europol some 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children have gone missing after arriving in Europe in 2016. 

Also according to UNHCR's reports, 35 per cent of migrants entering the EU since 1 January 2016 are children and many travel unaccompanied by an adult. In 2015, 85,482 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the EU, which was three times the 2014 figure. Half of them were from Afghanistan and 13 per cent from Syria.


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