October 24, 2016

EU may fine countries for rejecting refugees

A wave of migrants – many fleeing war and violence – have put Europe’s migration systems under unprecedented pressure

The European Commission has proposed reforms to EU asylum rules that would see stiff financial penalties imposed on countries refusing to take their share of asylum seekers.

The bloc’s executive body is planning a sanction of €250,000 (£200,000; $290,000) per person.

The Commission wants changes made to an asylum system which has buckled amid an influx of migrants.

The plans would require support from most member states as well as MEPs.

EU officials hope that, twinned with a deal with Turkey that has already reduced migrant numbers, tensions over migration within the bloc can be reduced.

‘Fair share’

The basic Dublin regulation would be kept, requiring refugees to claim asylum in the member state in which they arrive. However, there would be several changes to the details.

The EU already has a flagship scheme to redistribute 160,000 migrants around the continent, but it has met only a tiny fraction of this target since it was agreed in 2015. The UK and Ireland can opt out of asylum policies, and the British government has already indicated it will not take part.

Under the fresh proposals, if a country receives more than 150% of its annual “fair share” of asylum seekers, the relocation scheme would kick in.

Those countries that refused to accept their quota would effectively be fined – with the money going to frontline states such as Italy and Greece that have carried the burden.

The Dublin regulation is designed to stop what has become known as “asylum shopping”, whereby migrants make multiple asylum claims across Europe, and allows countries such as the UK to deport asylum seekers back to their first entry point to be dealt with there, reports the BBC’s Gavin Lee in Brussels.

But the migration crisis has exposed flaws in the policy, leaving Greece and Italy dealing with the majority of cases.

The planned figure of €250,000 per refused claimant could be revised but the Commission is known to want a punitive level.

A note on terminology: The BBC uses the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

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