for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up
World News

EU divisions over migration to resurface under new plan

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Union’s executive launched a plan on Wednesday for overhauling migration rules in a bid to end years of bitter feuds in the bloc and provide a better welcome for refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa.

FILE PHOTO: A couple sits covered with a blanket as refugees and migrants camp on a road following a fire at the Moria camp on the island of Lesbos, Greece, September 10, 2020. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

It aims to step up returns, including by resticting visas for citizens of countries that refuse to take their nationals back.

The EU now receives up to 1.5 million net new foreigners coming legally to live and work per year, compared to 140,000 asylum seekers arriving irregularly.

About two-thirds of the latter group are expected to fail to win asylum and should be sent away. The current rate of returns is around 30%.

The plan would also seek to support foreign states in stemming migration before people reach Europe.

It would also legally oblige all member states, in exchange for funding from the EU budget, to host some refugees - something rejected by Poland, Hungary, Austria, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and others.

Here are details of the new blueprint presented by the European Commission.

DURING REGULAR IMMIGRATION FLOWS

* Every year, the Commission will issue a projection of how many refugees each member state should take, based on the size of its economy and population, as well as estimated numbers of arrivals.

* For arrivals, EU states would make voluntary pledges of how many asylum-seekers and migrants they would host or return to their country of origin.

* They can also offer assistance on the ground in southern arrival countries Greece, Spain, Italy or Malta.

* If those pledges do not add up to at least 70% or more of the numbers the southern nations receive, the Commission - through a new scheme dubbed “critical mass correction mechanism” - will go back to member states and can assign each of them up to 50% of their “fair share” hosting quota.

* On returns, should an EU country commit to send an unsuccessful asylum-seeker back but the person is still in Europe eight months later, the country would have to take them in while continuing to try send them back from their own soil.

* The EU’s executive would continue paying member states 10,000 euros ($11,750) for every relocated adult and 12,000 euros for every relocated unaccompanied minor.

* Should an EU state fail to honour its obligations, the Commission can start infringement procedures against them, a legal case for violating the bloc’s laws. Offenders could incur hefty fines, but the process takes years.

DURING RISES IN ARRIVALS

* For times when irregular immigration rises to the levels seen in 2015/16, when more than a million people reached Europe from flashpoints in the Middle East and Africa, the Commission will propose a crisis mechanism under which states would not be able to offer capacity-building as a form of solidarity but would have to relocate those arriving or carry out returns.

WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

None of this is likely to be agreed quickly, if at all. The Commission said it wanted the new system in place in 2023.

European Council President Charles Michel, who chairs summits of EU leaders, said member states should first work on securing their borders and ensuring people are fairly treated there, align asylum benefits within the bloc and get more migration deals with foreign states before tackling relocation.

Germany hopes for a roadmap towards a future deal before its EU presidency runs its course at the end of the year.

(This story was refiled to add the dropped word “fail” in para 4)

Reporting by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Alison Williams and John Stonestreet

for-phone-onlyfor-tablet-portrait-upfor-tablet-landscape-upfor-desktop-upfor-wide-desktop-up