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EU Parliament approves migration emergency plan

April 20, 2023

EU lawmakers voted in a number of proposals that shape parliament's migration position. It comes as the bloc is expected to overhaul its asylum strategy ahead of 2024 elections.

Migrants with life jackets provided by volunteers of the Ocean Viking sit in a wooden boat before being rescued Saturday, Aug. 27, 2022.
EU countries have been split over the issue of migrants' obilgatory relocationImage: Jeremias Gonzales/AP Photo/picture alliance

European Union lawmakers approved on Thursday a number of migration proposals, including one requiring European Union members to share the duty of hosting migrants landing at times of high arrivals.

The approved proposals shape the parliament's position on the contentious migration topic, ahead of negotiations with EU member-states. They give bloc members a year to reform their asylum system before scheduled Europe-wide elections in May 2024.

"If we miss this chance to make it right, I don't think we will have another," the Associated Press news agency quoted Spanish Socialist lawmaker Juan Fernando López Aguilar as saying before the vote. "The kind of a message would be: 'Hey, listen, it's not going to happen. Not this time. Ever.'"

However, diplomats suggest there seems to be no break through in the issue of migrants' obligatory relocation..

Braving the cold for a chance to cross the EU border

What does the new proposal entail?

EU lawmakers are proposing that if an EU country is hit by a shock mass arrival of migrants, a bloc-wide crisis mechanism would be activated to share out the responsibility for the arriving migrants.

Migrants could then be relocated based on any "meaningful links" they might have to certain member-states. Those include family ties, cultural similarities or somewhere they have previously studied.

The idea is that a well-thought relocation would discourage migrants from searching in the future for a better country to settle, which prolongs the problem.

Countries such asItaly, Greece and Malta, which have received an influx of migrants arriving via the Mediterranean in recent months, have been calling for sharing the burder.

Survivors seek answers after boat disaster

Existing rules stipulate that the country of first entry for migrants must take responsibility for them. Mediterranean EU countries argue this is not fair. But other EU members refuse the idea of obligator quotas of migrants.

Countries like Poland and Hungary offer support in the form of money, staff or equipment but refuse to take in new arrivals.

Why does the EU need a new asylum system?

The bloc's migration and asylum system was exposed by the 2015 influx of over a million migrants, mostly fleeing the war in Syria, seeking refuge. Greek and Italian reception facilities soon became overwhelmed, with Brussels searching for solutions to outsource the problem.

In 2016, the bloc struck a highly controversial deal with Turkey, which involved returning refugees who made it to Greece without a right to EU asylum to Turkey.

In return, the EU would accept the same number of Syrian asylum seekers waiting in Turkish refugee camps and resettle them around the bloc. The EU also pledged to provide some €6 billion in funds to Turkey to support the almost four million Syrian refugees in the country.

Migration remained a hot topic in Europe for years afterwards, until the pandemic lockdowns slowed the movement of migrants.

However, Mediterranean arrivals surged in 2022, with reportedly 330,000 unauthorized arrivals.

The bloc is now mulling ideas previously discarded for being hardline, such as building border fences and assessing people's asylum claims outside the continent.

Migrants camp in Belarus at the point Brusgi on the border with Poland, which has recently been reinforced with barbed wire.
The EU is now considering what were previously branded as hardline options, such as building border fencesImage: Ulf Mauder/dpa/picture alliance

rmt/jcg (AP, Reuters)