EU seeks to stop asylum cheats in effort to control migration

The European Commission unveiled measures Wednesday aimed at cracking down on asylum seekers who abuse EU rules to seek out the most generous countries, but drew criticism for its attempt to bring migration flows under control.

The measures are part of an overhaul of EU asylum rules outlined last year - in part to prevent people from so-called migration shopping - at a time when migration numbers were on the rise in Europe.

More than 1 million people reached the continent in 2015, stretching capacities in countries of arrival - notably Greece - and in the wealthy states most were aiming for, while also testing unity within the 28-country EU.

Under EU rules, asylum seekers are supposed to apply for protection in the member state they first reach.

The commission proposed that asylum seekers who abscond from the country processing their request or refuse to cooperate in other ways could have their application rejected, while the clock would be reset for receiving long-term resident status every time a person is found in another member state.

The proposals would standardize decisions on asylum applications and cut waiting times, while making it easier to deport those who do not qualify for protection. Meanwhile, safeguards for unaccompanied minors would be improved.

The measures aim to ensure the same reception conditions for asylum seekers across the bloc, including on issues such as housing, labour market access, schooling and healthcare, to reduce incentives for people to target particular member states.

The aim is make the asylum system "generous to the most vulnerable but strict to those who try to abuse it," EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

But Green EU lawmaker Ska Keller criticized the proposals, arguing that they would create an asylum system based on "deterrence and sanctions," while Socialist colleague Birgit Sippel warned against a "lowering of existing EU standards."

The commission also wants to create an EU-wide list of safe countries of origin or transit that people can generally be returned to, and has proposed adding Turkey to that list.

EU asylum rules are currently based on directives that member states must meet through national laws, leading to discrepancies. The new system - which must now be approved by EU governments and lawmakers - would create one set of directly applicable EU-wide rules.

Britain, Denmark and Ireland are not expected to participate in the proposals, due to a series of opt-outs.

The EU's executive also proposed a permanent system to take in refuges from outside the bloc, under which member states would agree on annual resettlement figures and receive 10,000 euros for each person accepted through the scheme.

A year ago, EU member states agreed to take in 22,504 refugees from outside the bloc over a 24-month period. By July 11, 8,268 people had benefited from the scheme, which aims in part to destroy the business model of migrant smugglers.

Meanwhile, just 3,056 asylum seekers have been relocated within the EU from the most burdened member states, under a scheme foreseeing the redistribution of up to 160,000 people, the commission said Wednesday.

Last update: Wed, 13/07/2016 - 15:14

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