Against the backdrop of the refugee influx into Europe, the EU Commission has offered several options for reforming the Common European Asylum System (CEAS).
Speaking on the CEAS, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “The refugee crisis has shown the weaknesses in our Common European Asylum System. Let there be no doubt: those who need protection must continue to receive it, and they should not have to put their lives in the hands of people smugglers. But the current system is not sustainable.”
The CEAS was first established in 1999 to provide a simplified and universal refugee processing system across the EU, but implementing and executing the plan has been difficult.
Europe has struggled over the past few years as record numbers of people have arrived, overwhelming countries like Italy and Greece and placing strains on intra-EU relations over who is obliged to take people in.
The proposals include drastic changes to the Dublin Regulation, which places responsibility for examining an asylum claim on the country where the refugee has arrived. This system does not work well for the massive number that have been entering southern Europe, and so the EU Commission could implement a change to make the system fairer.
The issue of “asylum shopping”, where migrants apply to certain countries because of real or perceived advantages is also a prevalent issue, which the Commission recommended could be addressed with harmonised asylum policies.
A recurring issue of the refugee crisis in Europe has been movement within the EU, as countries in the Schengen Area have long since abolished their borders, a key pillar of the European Union. This created situations where member states reintroduced border controls. The report suggested that the original country that the asylum seeker entered is responsible for detaining them if the application is unsuccessful, and preventing their movement to other European countries.
The EU Commission also called upon more transparent legal migration routes. A massive problem has arisen with people smugglers, who are thought to earn billions each year transporting people into European Union territory. It noted that this needs to be addressed internationally and not just on a European level, a possible reference to other developed nations not taking their share of refugees.
The EU Commission proposals are needed at a time when the refugee crisis has already seen more than a million people enter the European Union. Dangerous crossings and people smugglers have made a bad situation worse, and the commission clearly set out a theme for its proposals: a unified approach with all member states taking responsibility.
Image: © European Union, 2016