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The agreement provides for “screening” of migrants upon their arrival and a compulsory solidarity regime between states.

The European Union reforms its migration policy | The migrant crisis

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Hundreds of migrants aboard a fishing boat arrive in the port of Catania, Sicily, after being rescued a few days earlier from a trawler off the Sicilian coast. Italy welcomed the Pact on Migration and Asylum reached by the EU on Wednesday. (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

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Years of discussions and final negotiations until the end of the night: MEPs and representatives of the 27 Member States reached an agreement on Wednesday morning on the reform of the European migration system, strongly denounced by defenders of human rights.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, welcomed the historic agreement on the Pact on Migration and #x27;asylum.

The President of the European Parliament, Maltese Roberta Metsola, said she was very proud, saying that it was probably the most important legislative agreement of this mandate.

Germany, France, Spain, Greece and the Netherlands congratulated themselves, as did Italy, for which reform allows countries on the front line at the EU borders to no longer feel alone.

Conversely, Hungary, opposed to the planned solidarity measures, forcefully rejected this agreement, which however only requires a qualified majority to be adopted.

The migrant crisis

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The migrant crisis

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Coincidentally, this breakthrough came shortly after the adoption in France of a controversial law on immigration, which caused a crisis in the camp of President Emmanuel Macron due to the support given to this text by the far right.

The Pact on Migration and Asylum, presented by the European Commission in September 2020, consists in an overhaul of European rules, after the failure of a previous proposal in 2016 in the wake of the refugee crisis.

It provides in particular for reinforced control of migrant arrivals in the EU, centers near the borders to return more quickly those not entitled to asylum and a compulsory solidarity mechanism between member countries for the benefit of States subject to migratory pressure.

The political agreement obtained on the five texts of this reform will still have to be officially approved by the Council (Member States) and the European Parliament.

The goal is final adoption before the European elections in June 2024, with the issue of immigration monopolizing the political debate in many countries, against a backdrop of the rise of far-right and populist parties. /p>

The reform, however, arouses criticism from human rights organizations. Around fifty of them were worried on Monday that it would lead to a poorly designed, costly and cruel system. Caritas ruled that it limited access to asylum and the rights of those seeking protection.

French MEP Damien Carême (Greens) denounced a pact that shames Europe's finest values.

We come out with a text which is worse than the current situation […]. We are going to finance walls, barbed wire, protection systems throughout Europe, he declared on X.

The reform retains the rule currently in force according to which the first country of entry into the EU of an asylum seeker is responsible for his file, with some adjustments. But to help the Mediterranean countries, where many exiles arrive, a compulsory solidarity system is organized in the event of migratory pressure.

Other member states must contribute by taking care of asylum seekers (transfers) or by providing financial support.

The reform also provides for screening of migrants upon arrival and a procedure at the border for those who are statistically the least likely to obtain asylum: they will be held in centers to be able to be returned more quickly to their home country. country of origin or transit.

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French MEP Fabienne Keller, a member of the Renew Europe party, says the Migration and Asylum Pact respects the values ​​of the European Union. (File photo)

The reform fully respects our values, commented French MEP Fabienne Keller (Renew Europe, centrists and liberals). She specified that the European Parliament had obtained guarantees on a mechanism for monitoring fundamental rights in these border procedures, on the reception conditions of families with young children, on the access of migrants to a legal advice. She affirmed that measures restricting freedom other than detention were possible.

Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas was delighted to see the three big political families behind this agreement: the EPP (right), the Socialists and Democrats Group (S&D) and Renew Europe. Who won't follow? The extreme right. It doesn't bother us, it suits us […] to have the extreme right aside.

Other agreed text: a regulation on crisis situations and force majeure, intended to organize a response in the event of a massive influx of migrants into an EU state, such as at the time of the refugee crisis in 2015-2016.

Here again we provide for compulsory solidarity between Member States and the establishment of a less protective derogation regime for asylum seekers than the usual procedures, with a possible extension of the duration of detention at the bloc's external borders.

The EU is currently experiencing an increase in the number of irregular arrivals, as well as asylum requests. During the first 11 months of 2023, the Frontex agency recorded more than 355,000 crossings of the EU's external borders, an increase of 17%.

Asylum applications, meanwhile, could reach more than a million by the end of 2023, according to the EU Asylum Agency (EUAA).

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