First Vice-President Frans Timmermans (L) gives a joint press conferenece at the EU Headquarters in Brussels. Photo / AFP
A divided European Union
yesterday unveiled a fresh plan to shake up its failed asylum policy and force countries to share the burden of its unprecedented migrant crisis.
Just days after Greece began expelling migrants to Turkey under a controversial swap deal, Frans Timmermans, a top EU official, admitted that the bloc’s current system is “not working”.
The influx of more than 1 million refugees and migrants fleeing war and poverty has put the bloc’s cherished border-free rules under severe strain and sparked sharp divisions among the 28 EU nations.
Under the bloc’s existing rules – the so-called Dublin system – migrants seeking asylum must apply in the country where they first arrive and are returned there if they move to somewhere else in the EU.
But critics have slammed this system as obsolete and unfair to Greece and Italy, where most of the 1.25 million Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and other migrants entered the bloc last year.
Greece and Italy simply waved migrants onwards to countries where they wanted asylum, like Germany.
The first idea, dubbed “Dublin plus” and popular with most countries, would be to keep the existing system but add a “corrective fairness mechanism” to redistribute migrants from a member state grappling with a sudden influx of refugees
A second, more radical, proposal would be to automatically distribute migrants across the EU based on member states’ population, wealth and capacity to take in newcomers.
This option had the support of Germany and Sweden.
“Both options will provide much needed solidarity,” Timmermans said.