When Germany takes over the rotating EU presidency, it will seek to tackle the long-stalled reform of EU asylum rules. The pressure to act is almost as great as the resistance to reform ideas.
More people have fled their homes and are living as refugees than ever before. By UN estimates, almost 80 million people in total – which equates to almost 1% of the global population or almost exactly the population of Germany.
The EU has clearly defined rules and guidelines for handling asylum seekers. According to the terms of the Dublin Accord, refugees should seek asylum and be cared for in the first EU member state they enter. For geographical reasons, that most often Italy or Greece.
Since the so-called refugee crisis of 2015 and 2016, the system had been creaking.
"The current European asylum system no longer works and cannot be fixed through small improvements. We urgently need a real, fresh start," a spokesman for Germany's interior ministry recently said.
The quota quandary
Germany wants a fairer spread of asylum seekers across all EU members. The European Commission put a proposal forward in 2016 but it faced severe resistance from countries unwilling to take on migrants arriving in southern Europe — in particular from Eastern EU members Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Now Germany is readying for another try during its six-month stint atop the Council of the EU, answering calls from migrant lobby groups.
"We call on the German government to use its Council presidency to ensure that there is finally collective responsibility for refugees in the EU," the chairman of Germany's migration and integration council, Memet Kilic, said.Main proposal deemed 'unfair' by activists
German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer wants to set up asylum centers on the EU's external borders.He suggests refugees should be screened there to ensure that only people with a realistic chance of being granted asylum move on to Europe at all. Those with poor prospects at asylum should be sent home. This would reduce the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe and would mean that fewer have to be shared out among EU members.
"We are prepared to take in those in need of protection," Seehofer said last week, "but the legal system also needs to ensure that those people who aren't in need of refuge are returned to their countries of origin."
CDU politician Patrick Sensburg, a domestic policy expert, told DW that such early tests were necessary to "cancel out the allure of illegal migration."
But Wiebke Judith from the Pro Asyl charity believes that this system would only prevent any chance of fair hearings. She says that checking people's reasons for fleeing at the EU's external borders would turn out to be "so comprehensive and detailed" that this would lead to large camps and long waiting times.
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