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Sat. May 25th, 2024

The European Union is poised to undergo a significant transformation in its immigration policies as it nears a crucial vote scheduled for Wednesday. The proposed reforms aim to reinforce entry procedures for asylum-seekers and establish a system of shared responsibility among all member states of the bloc.

On the docket for the European Parliament is a comprehensive set of laws constituting the EU’s migration and asylum pact, building upon a proposal put forth by the European Commission in September 2020. This monumental overhaul, set to take effect from 2026 if ratified, marks the culmination of years of discord and negotiations among EU member nations.

Concurrently, the European Union has been engaged in diplomatic efforts with several non-member countries to curb the outflow of migrants from their territories, thereby lessening the burden on Europe. These endeavors come against the backdrop of a notable increase in asylum applications within the 27-nation bloc, reaching 1.14 million last year, the highest level since 2016.

Moreover, the influx of irregular migrant entries into EU territories has surged, with 380,000 recorded last year, as reported by the EU’s border and coast guard agency Frontex. However, the proposed migration and asylum pact has encountered opposition from various quarters, including far-right, far-left, and some socialist lawmakers.

Manfred Weber, leader of the European People’s Party, the largest political group in the European Parliament, lauded the new migration rules as a means to regain control over external borders and alleviate pressure on the EU. Conversely, NGOs and migrant charities have voiced concerns over certain provisions of the reform, particularly the establishment of border facilities for asylum-seekers and expedited deportations.

The proposed pact retains the fundamental principle whereby the first EU country of arrival bears responsibility for asylum cases. However, it introduces a “solidarity mechanism,” mandating all EU nations to assist frontline states such as Italy and Greece either by accepting asylum-seekers or providing financial contributions.

Despite assertions of balance and improvement by proponents like French centrist lawmaker Fabienne Keller, the contentious nature of the pact persists. Criticisms range from fears of systematic detentions to skepticism over the efficacy of measures such as sending asylum-seekers to designated “safe” third countries.

As the European Parliament prepares to cast its vote, the road ahead remains fraught with challenges. Technical details regarding the implementation of procedures, including the operation of border facilities and resource allocation, await definition. Meanwhile, debates over provisions like financial offsets for border security and biometric data collection underscore the complexity of reforming the EU’s asylum framework amidst divergent interests and ideologies.

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