Europe’s Migrant Crisis Is Causing a Rethink of EU Asylum Policy

Europe’s Migrant Crisis Is Causing a Rethink of EU Asylum Policy
A Lithuanian soldier patrols a road near the Lithuania-Belarus border, Nov. 13, 2021 (AP photo by Mindaugas Kulbis).

While previous waves of migrant crossings, and the deaths that often accompany them, have mostly been concentrated in Europe’s south, the latter part of 2021 has seen the extension of that problem to the European Union’s eastern and western borders as well. The European Commission now says that, because of these extraordinary circumstances, the bloc’s normal rules on refugees and asylum shouldn’t apply.

Yesterday, the commission proposed that EU member states bordering Belarus should be given more time than the bloc normally requires to register and consider asylum claims from refugees entering their territory—up to four weeks, instead of the usual 10 days. Belarus is accused of purposefully bringing migrants from the Middle East to its territory and sending them across the EU’s eastern border as retaliation for EU sanctions against the country in response to Minsk’s brutal crackdown on protesters following last year’s disputed presidential election.

Under the proposal, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia could hold asylum seekers for up to 16 weeks after their claims have been registered, in detention facilities on the border that are known for their deplorable conditions. The change, which still needs to be approved by a majority of member state governments in the European Council, would last for six months.

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