The EU’s New Migration Plan Is a Setback for Asylum Rights

The EU’s New Migration Plan Is a Setback for Asylum Rights
A group of people thought to be migrants crossing the English Channel from the coast of France and heading in the direction of Dover, U.K., Aug. 29, 2023 (Press Association photo by Gareth Fuller via AP Images).

After more than three years of intense negotiations, the European Parliament finally passed the European Union’s flagship migration plan earlier this month. In a series of 10 separate votes, MEPs approved the Pact on Migration and Asylum’s six regulations, three recommendations and one directive governing how asylum-seekers and migrants are dealt with when they arrive at EU borders, and how responsibility for the processing, accommodation and relocation of asylum applicants is to be shared by member states.

The impetus for creating a set “of collective and predictive rules around migration” to replace the current ad hoc state-by-state arrangements dates back almost a decade to the migrant crisis of 2015, when an unprecedented 1.3 million displaced people attempted to enter the EU, largely as a consequence of the Syrian civil war. Since 2013, EU migration policy has been governed by the Dublin III regulation, which stipulates that asylum claims be processed in the country of first entry. This rule disproportionately affected member states on the southern periphery of the bloc such as Italy, Malta and particularly Greece, which was completely overwhelmed by the arrival of migrants during the 2015 crisis. To create a more equitable arrangement, the European Commission tried to introduce compulsory refugee quotas across the bloc, but several Eastern European countries, most notably Hungary and Poland, refused to apply them. The scheme was eventually abandoned in 2020, and negotiations began on the migration and asylum pact.

In the European Parliament, the measures were passed with the support of the center-right EPP group, the center-left Socialists, Democrats and Greens group and the liberal Renewal group. But they enjoyed smaller margins of victory than originally expected, after staunch opposition by more than 160 rights organizations succeeded in persuading some center-left MEPs to vote against the deal.

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