The central reception facility for asylum-seekers in Berlin, Germany/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

EU-Parliament approves new Migration and Asylum Pact after 10 years of negotiations

The European Parliament on Wednesday adopted ten legislative texts to reform European migration and asylum policy as agreed with EU member states. Analysts say the sweeping reform of Europe’s asylum policies, reached after nearly a decade of negotiations, would harden border procedures and force all the bloc’s 27 nations to share responsibility. Here are the ten decisions made by the MEPs

Solidarity and responsibility

In order to assist EU countries subject to migratory pressure, other member states will contribute by relocating asylum applicants or beneficiaries of international protection to their territory, making financial contributions, or providing operational and technical support. The criteria according to which a member state is responsible for examining international protection applications (the so called Dublin rules) will also be updated.

Addressing situations of crisis

The crisis and force majeure regulation establishes a mechanism to respond to sudden increases in arrivals, ensuring solidarity and support for member states facing an exceptional influx of third-country nationals. The new rules will also cover the instrumentalisation of migrants, i.e. when they are used by third-countries or hostile non-state actors aiming to destabilise the EU.

Screening of third-country nationals at EU borders

People who do not meet the conditions to enter the EU will be subject to a pre-entry screening procedure, including identification, collecting of biometric data, and health and security checks, during a period of up to seven days. Member states will have to set independent monitoring mechanisms to ensure the respect for fundamental rights.

Faster asylum procedures

A new common procedure will be established across the EU to grant and withdraw international protection. Processing asylum claims at EU borders will in future have to be faster, with shorter deadlines for unfounded or inadmissible claims.

Eurodac regulation

The data of those arriving irregularly to the EU, including fingerprints and facial images from six years old onwards, will be stored in the reformed Eurodac database. Authorities will also be able to record if someone may present a security threat or was violent or armed.

Qualifications standards

Parliament also backed new uniform standards for all member states for the recognition of refugee or subsidiary protection status, and regarding the rights granted to those qualifying for protection. Member states should assess the situation in the country of origin based on information from the EU Asylum Agency and refugee status would be reviewed regularly. Applicants for protection will have to remain on the territory of the member state responsible for their application or in which the protection was granted.

Receiving asylum applicants

Member states will have to ensure equivalent reception standards for asylum seekers when it comes to, for example, housing, schooling and health care. Registered asylum applicants will be able to start working at the latest six months after filing the request. The conditions of detention and the restriction of freedom of movement will be regulated, to discourage applicants from moving around the EU.

Safe and legal way to Europe

Under a new framework on resettlement and humanitarian admission, member states will, on a voluntary basis, offer to host UNHCR-recognised refugees from third countries, who would travel to EU territory in a legal, organised and safe way.

Next steps

Once the package is formally approved by the Council, the laws will enter into force after their publication in the Official Journal. The regulations are expected to start applying in two years time. For the reception conditions directive, member states will have two years to introduce the changes to their national laws.

In making the decisions, the Parliament said it was responding to citizens’ expectations to strengthen the EU’s role in tackling all forms of irregular migration and strengthen the protection of the European Union’s external borders, while respecting human rights, to apply common rules uniformly in all member states on the first reception of migrants, to strengthen the EU’s role and reform the European asylum system based on the principles of solidarity and fair share of responsibility, as expressed in proposals 42(2), 43(1), 43(2), 44(1), 44(2), 44(3), 44(4) of the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe.

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