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The New Arab Staff & Agencies

EU to unveil long-delayed asylum plan to share responsibility

Brussels will propose the plan five years after Europe's migrant crisis [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 September, 2020

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The EU will announce a plan for member states to share the responsibility for asylum seekers.

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EU, migration

Five years after Europe's migrant crisis, Brussels will propose on Wednesday that member states share the responsibility for asylum seekers under a "compulsory solidarity mechanism".

The New Pact on Migration and Asylum will be unveiled by European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson and Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas.

Johansson wants the 27 member states to commit to sharing the burden of handling asylum claims from migrants arriving on the bloc's shores.

"It's obvious to everybody that ad hoc solidarity or voluntary solidarity is not enough. That has been proven for many years now," she said. "It has to be mandatory."

The plan will make showing solidarity with all EU countries on the front lines - often Greece, Italy or Malta - compulsory when they are "under pressure" from arrivals.

It may mean aid will no longer be limited to EU countries to where asylum seekers are relocated, but will be directed to other nations to return refused asylum seekers back to their country of origin.

It is hoped that this measure will pacify EU countries like those of the Visegrad group - Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia - who have persistently failed to welcome asylum seekers.

Still, it may prove tough to pass: Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz has already warned the EU against forcing states to take in asylum seekers.

"We find that the distribution in Europe (of asylum seekers) has failed and many states reject this. It won't work like this," the 34-year-old conservative leader said Tuesday.

His country and other smaller nations - some of them such as Hungary have been criticised by Brussels over their anti-immigration stance and on rule-of-law issues - have spoken out in the past against any mandatory asylum-seeker distribution.

The proposal follows a devastating fire earlier this month at an overcrowded camp for migrants and asylum seekers on the Greek island of Lesbos that left thousands homeless - and put EU migration policy back in the spotlight.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said last week that the new proposals would include plans to strengthen border security and return failed asylum seekers, which Kurz and allies are in favour of, while also including "a new strong solidarity mechanism".

The commission also wants to speed up asylum procedures, to quickly determine whether a person is eligible, and to prevent applicants from an uncertain life in camps. 

Five years after the 2015 migration crisis, annual "irregular arrivals" are down to 140,000 a year, but EU members remain deeply divided on the issue.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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