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German minister calls for EU asylum reform

June 7, 2020

Germany’s interior minister has called for his country to use its time in the EU presidency to strengthen the bloc’s border controls. But human rights groups say the move will hurt already-vulnerable refugees.

An EU Frontex border guard on a boat
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Charisius

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer called on Germany to use its position as the upcoming president of the Council of the European Union to overhaul the bloc's asylum system and to strengthen border controls. 

"The need is there. We need to make progress, finally," Seehofer told the Funke media group in an interview published Sunday.

Germany will take over the presidency of the EU's main decision-making body, on July 1, 2020. The role rotates to a new member-state every half-year

In the interview, the interior minister repeated a past call to institute a policy of verifying whether someone is entitled to asylum before they enter the EU. 

Seehofer said that if a person at the EU border does not have the right to ask for asylum, he or she cannot be distributed under the EU scheme and must “instead be turned away.”

To this end, he called for a "massive" expansion of the EU's border protection agency, Frontex. 

Read more: Follow the money: What are the EU's migration policy priorities?

Call for 'flexible solidarity' from eastern states

Seehofer also criticized mostly eastern European countries in the EU for being unwilling to take in refugees. 

"If a country doesn't do its part taking in refugees, then it needs to support the system in other ways," he said. He called for a greater show of "flexible solidarity," but did not clarify what this could look like. 

"Whether its sea rescues or retrieving children from Greece or taking in refugees, at the moment it is always only a few countries jumping in," he said. 

It is time for the EU to confront this situation and "move forward visibly," he said. 

Read more: Germans most worried about refugees, climate change

Human rights groups speak out

Human rights organization Pro Asyl spoke out critically against Seehofer's border proposal. 

"We are opposed to mass actions at the borders," said the organization's managing director Günter Burkhardt. 

It is rare that asylum seekers at the EU's borders have legal representation, he said. It would also be nearly impossible to provide a judicial review of any incorrect rulings, he added. 

"Rule of law in detention centers is essentially overridden," Burkhardt said. 

kp/mm (AFP, KNA)

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