The European Parliament approved the legislative framework that will tighten the asylum system. What changes with new Pact on Migration and Asylum?

In his last meeting before the European elections in June and after 8 years of arduous negotiations with the 27 member states the European Parliament approved one fundamental reform of the EU asylum system. The Migration and Asylum Pact which consists of eight lawsprimarily aimed at decrease in immigrant arrivalsthe acceleration of asylum procedures and their execution at the Union’s external borders.

Within seven days of their arrival, asylum seekers should be identified and registered in the expanded Eurodac biometric database.

Immigrants from countries with a recognition rate below 20% they will be detained at the border for up to 12 weeks. In the camps where they will be and who will be erected in Greece, Italy, Malta, Spain, Croatia and Cyprus, it will be decided who should return to their country of origin without further screening. This concerns a limited number of asylum seekers.

From the other side, immigrants coming from countries with a higher recognition rate will go through normal asylum procedures, which will accelerate. Those who do not receive asylum will be deported.

How will the first receiving countries be relieved?

The first receiving countries will be able to promote to other EU states some recognized asylum seekers or migrants with a good chance of being granted asylum. There will thus be an “obligation of solidarity” between the member states. Countries like Hungary that do not want to accept anyone, should at least pay a sum of money or send equipment and personnel to the first receiving countries. The amount of money amounts to 20,000 euros for each immigrant that the respective state does not accept.

However this balancing system is not established in the Pact. Instead, member states will negotiate on this on a case-by-case basis. If a country considers that it has been significantly burdened, it can relax the regulatory framework and ask for greater solidarity from other states. The 27 member states jointly determine when there is one “case of crisis”. As one can therefore understand, the scope for political confrontations is great.

What about her “internal migration”?

So far there is a clear one “internal migration” asylum seekers from Greece or Italy to Germany, Austria, France, the Netherlands or Belgium. Asylum seekers who applied for example in Italy and were rejected, or who are not satisfied with their living conditions, are often headed to Germany.

Normally Italy is obliged to take back such migrants. But in reality this is not the case. The new Pact reworks the relevant provisions and emphasizes that the countries of first reception are responsible. At the same time, the benefits and admission conditions of an asylum seeker are expected to be shaped uniformly across the EU – which will also limit the incentives for internal migration in other member states.

Will deportations become easier?

The Pact provides how deportations to countries of origin that are considered safe and back to countries of transit will be faster.

In this context the EU is seeking to conclude agreements with third countries for them to receive migrants whose asylum application was rejected. The example of the agreement with Tunisia is typical in this regard: the African state received financial aid and in return agreed to take back its citizens who are in the EU. However, the Tunisian government refuses to accept people from sub-Saharan Africa who traveled through of Tunisia to the EU.

The agreement with Turkey since 2016 had contributed to the reduction of Syrian refugees arriving in Greece for the next four years. Today, however, the agreement is not implemented as Turkey no longer takes back Syrians from Greece.

How to prevent… “asylum tourism”?

Border control agencies in the EU will register all migrants who will arrive at the border and pass their biometric data to an expanded database that will be accessible to all authorities in Europe.

In this way it will be possible to determine whether an immigrant, whose asylum application was rejected in Greece, can apply again in Austria or travel through other countries. This asylum seeker can then be more easily sent back to the country of first reception and eventually deported back to their country of origin.

Why is the Pact still controversial?

Those in favor of the Pact claim that the stricter rules and procedures aimed at faster deportations will act as a deterrent after a period of time. Then fewer immigrants would come because their chances of staying in Europe would decrease.

Nevertheless there are also those who criticize the Pact, considering that this undermines the right to asylum in the EU and that it will lead to the rejection of asylum applications even of people who are genuinely in need of protection. And all this while people will continue to die in the Mediterranean.

What happens from now on?

At the end of April the EU Council is expected to give final, formal approval. When the regulatory framework included in the Pact comes into force, developments will primarily depend on whether and how member states fulfill their new obligations. Will Italy build functional, closed border camps? Will the countries of northern and eastern Europe really show solidarity and take in immigrants or at least pay their fair share for those who refuse to take them?

It is certain that it will take two years for the new framework to come into force and to see if the numbers of asylum seekers have actually decreased and in fact as much as the present estimates dictate.

Diligence: George Passas