Migration policy: EU should focus on making rules work 'better', says MEP

Rather than trying to implement new rules, member states should work on making sure the current system is more efficient, says Timothy Kirkhope.

By Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at the Parliament Magazine

07 Apr 2016

Senior centre right MEP Timothy Kirkhope has urged the Commission to make asylum rules "better" in the wake of the still-unfolding migrant crisis engulfing much of Europe.

The British Tory deputy was responding to radical proposals outlined by the college on Wednesday to reform EU asylum rules.

This follows the chaotic arrival of over a million migrants and refugees to Europe last year that has strained the EU’s cohesion.


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The Commission has put forward two possible visions for the future of what is known as the EU's Dublin regulation, which determines where asylum applications should be made. 

One is a complete overhaul of the system which would see automatic and mandatory redistribution of applicants around the EU. This first option is to create a "corrective fairness mechanism" that would relocate asylum seekers from frontline states to elsewhere in the bloc - a method now being employed on an ad hoc basis.

The other vision says that the principles underpinning Dublin should remain the same, with better implementation and assistance for those countries on the front line.  

The Commission has also published a set of broadly welcome proposals aimed at preventing so-called 'secondary movement' of refugees and migrants within the EU.  

The current system which allows people claim asylum in the first EU state they enter is seen as having left Greece and Italy being unable and unwilling to offer asylum to all arrivals.

It has also seen many migrants trekking north, prompting border closures that threaten the EU's hallmark Schengen system of passport free travel within Europe.

Longer term, the Commission also proposes centralising the entire asylum process within EU institutions, rather than basing it on national laws - though this is very unlikely to find much support among member states for the time being.

"The current system is not sustainable," the European Commission's First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said in presenting the proposal.

"We need a sustainable system for the future, based on common rules, a fairer sharing of responsibility, and safe legal channels for those who need protection to get it in the EU."

Germany, which took in a million people last year who mostly arrived initially in Greece, wants to stick to the main Dublin principle of first point of entry but have a permanent relocation scheme in place for asylum-seekers. Italy has pushed for the abolition of the first-country rule altogether.

Britain, which will vote in a referendum in June on whether to quit the bloc, does not take part in most EU asylum policies.

With no compromise yet in sight, the Commission has shied away from presenting concrete legal proposals and instead laid out various options for future changes.

However, the proposals rule out maintaining the status quo, despite some governments not wishing to see any change in a system under which they take in very few refugees.

Kirkhope, the European Conservatives and Reformists group home affairs spokesperson, was quick to respond, saying, "The Dublin system stopped working because countries stopped applying the rules. The European Commission has proposed one way forward that is viable and another which is aspirational but frankly not going to happen. We need to show that we have learnt from the mistakes made by forcing through the emergency relocation mechanism. 

"An effective Dublin system needs to ensure the integrity of the Schengen area while supporting the work of Frontex to deliver a stronger external border control.      

"Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel we need the system that we have in place to work more effectively, with clarity on states' responsibilities and support for those facing the largest number of arrivals.

"Between now and the detailed proposals from the European Commission we need to see governments and parliaments making it clear that a better implementation of the current system is the only option available to stabilise the crisis."

 

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