EU lawmakers approve major revamp of pact on migration, asylum

European Union lawmakers have approved a major revamp of the bloc’s migration laws on how to manage the entry of thousands of people without authorisation. (Photo/AP)

European Union lawmakers have approved a major revamp of the bloc’s migration laws on how to manage the entry of thousands of people without authorisation.

The members of the European Parliament voted on Wednesday on the "Pact on Migration and Asylum", regulations and policies meant to help address the issue of who should take responsibility for migrants and asylum seekers when they arrive.

The proceedings were briefly interrupted by a group of demonstrators in the public gallery who wore shirts marked “this pact kills” and said “vote no!”

The 27 EU member countries must now endorse the reform package, possibly in a vote in late April before it can enter force.

'Bare minimum'

The plan was drawn up after 1.3 million people, mostly those fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, sought refuge in Europe in 2015.

The EU’s asylum system collapsed, reception centres were overwhelmed in Greece and Italy, and countries further north built barriers to stop people from entering.

But few have admitted to being happy with the new policy response to one of Europe’s biggest political crises, and even the lawmakers who drafted parts of the new regulations are unwilling to support the entire reform package.

Dutch lawmaker Sophie i’nt Veld, who drew up the assembly’s position on migrant reception conditions, described the pact as “the bare minimum” in terms of a policy response, but she does not want to torpedo it by voting against it.

“We will not have another opportunity to come to an agreement,” she said, adding that she planned to abstain from some of the votes.

Swedish parliamentarian Malin Bjork, who worked on refugee resettlement, said that the pact does not respond to “any of the questions it was set to solve.”

She said the reform package “undermines the individual right to seek asylum” in Europe because it would build on plans that some EU countries already have to process migrants abroad. Italy has concluded one such deal with Albania.

“We cannot have a situation where people systematically, in their thousands, die on their way seeking protection and refuge in Europe,” Bjork told reporters.

Controversial measures

The new rules include controversial measures: facial images and fingerprints could be taken from children from the age of 6, and people may be detained during screening.

Fast-track deportation could be used on those not permitted to stay.

“The pact will lead to more detention and de facto detention at the EU’s external borders, including for families with children, which is in clear violation of international law,” said Marta Gionco from Picum, a network of migrant rights defence organisations.

Mainstream political parties want to secure agreement on the pact ahead of Europe-wide elections on June 6-9.

Migration is likely to be a campaign issue, and they believe the new reforms address concerns about an issue that has been a consistent vote-winner for far-right parties.


Source: TRT