EU Proposes New Asylum Rules in Latest Bid to Stop Migrants Crossing EuropeAugust 1, 2016 in Migration
On 13 July, the European Commission proposed more unified European Union (EU) asylum rules in what is the latest bid to stop people waiting for refugee status moving around the bloc and disrupting its passport-free zone.
Last year, in an unprecedented wave of migration, 1.3 million people reached the European continent, with most ignoring legal restrictions and instead opting to trek from the Mediterranean coast to apply for asylum in Germany. This prompted some EU countries to suspend the Schengen Area system, which allows free passage between most EU states.
The new proposal would standardize refugee reception facilities across the bloc and unify the level of state support that they can get, setting common rules on residence permits, travel papers, access to jobs, schools, social welfare and healthcare. It would grant prospective refugees swifter rights to work, however it would also place more obligations on them, effectively meaning that if they do not cooperate with the authorities or head to an EU state of their choice rather than staying put, their asylum application could be jeopardized. The Commission has stated that the five-year waiting period after which refugees are eligible for long-term residence would be started if they move from their designated country. According to EU Migration Commissioner Dimitis Avramopoulos, “the change will create a genuine common asylum procedure,” adding that “at the same time, we set clear obligations and duties for asylum seekers to prevent secondary movements and abuse of procedures.”
The United Nations refugee agency UNHCR has already indicated that it has concerns about the new rules, stating that the new system must not lower standards of protection and asylum.
The plan, which will be reviewed by EU governments and the European Parliament, comes after Brussels proposed in May a system for distributing asylum seekers, an idea that has been opposed by eastern EU states, which refuse to accept refugees. The Commission has reported that only 3,056 people have so far been relocated under the scheme that was meant for 160,000 people. Both Hungary and Slovakia have challenged the system in the courts.