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Europe migration: EU plans mandatory pact to ‘rebuild trust’

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The European Union has called for a compulsory system across the bloc to manage migration, after years of division over how to respond to a big influx of migrants and refugees.

The German-backed pact would require all 27 EU countries to take part.

Member states would either agree to take in asylum seekers or take charge of sending back those refused asylum.

European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen called it a "European solution… to restore citizens' confidence".

The recent fires that destroyed the Moria camp in Greece, housing more than 12,500 migrants and refugees, was "a stark reminder we need to find sustainable solutions," she added.

Ever since the influx of over a million migrants and refugees in 2015, mainly via Italy and Greece, the EU's 27 states have been divided over how to respond, and the new pact has already attracted criticism.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz cast doubt on the idea of distributing asylum seekers across Europe. "It won't work like this," he told the AFP news agency.

Italy and Greece have accused wealthier northern countries of failing to do enough, but a number of Central and Eastern European nations have been openly resistant to the idea of taking in a quota of migrants.

What's in the plan?

The new pact, which has been pushed most strongly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, proposes a "fair sharing of responsibility and solidarity between member states while providing certainty for individual applicants". There would be:

  • New compulsory pre-entry screening involving health, identity and security checks
  • A faster asylum border process involving decisions within 12 weeks and swift returns for failed applicants

The EU's 27 countries would have "flexible options" for how to take part, so countries such as Hungary and Poland that have refused to take in arrivals in the past would be asked to help in different ways.

  • Taking in recent arrivals
  • "Sponsoring" returns – ensuring on behalf of other states that people refused asylum are sent back
  • Providing immediate operational support
  • Each state would be legally required to contribute their "fair share" – based half on GDP, and half on population size

The European Commission president said the new pact would "rebuild trust between member states" and strike the "right balance between solidarity and responsibility".

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said she guessed that not one of the member states would be satisfied with the pact, "but I think we would have 27 member states and parliament that would say it's worth working on this".

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The new pact is also designed to replace the ageing Dublin rule, which requires asylum claims to be handled in the EU country where the applicant first enters the system.

Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas said the old regulation was designed for a few people fleeing dictatorships, not today's reality.

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No easy fix for a long-running crisis

Analysis by Kevin Connolly, Europe correspondent

Protesters march during a demonstration for the evacuation of all migrant camps in Greeceimage copyrightGetty Images

Of all the problems that have beset the European Union none is more chronic or more corrosive than migration. The search for solutions began even before the upheaval of 2015 saw a million migrants, refugees and asylum seekers arrive on the bloc's shores.

And the 2016 deal under which Turkey agreed to hold back part of that tide of humanity in return for substantial cash payments is now showing signs of strain. That leaves the EU countries where migrants first land – notably Greece and Italy – bearing the bulk of the burden.

But Poland and Hungary have resolutely resisted plans for mandatory sharing in the past. It's unlikely that money or EU plans for quicker processing of asylum claims will change their views.

So when the EU Home Affairs Commissioner says "no-one will be satisfied" with these new measures, she is highlighting the compromise she has to strike betweeRead More – Source

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