The two-decade debate on the EU’s migration policy revamp has finally ended with an agreement. Although the deal is still preliminary and yet to be ratified, the EU’s Spanish Presidency claimed that the EU has “reached a deal on the core political elements” regarding the issue. This was reported on Wednesday after interminable discussions that began on Monday and extended through Tuesday in Brussels.
Discussions for a consensus have been held since The 2015 Migration Crisis but have garnered even more attention and subsequently intensified within the last couple of years. With Europe’s soaring illegal immigrant rates, anti-Islamist and anti-immigrant sentiments have been on a steady rise. The situation has propelled member states’ governments to scour for heavy measures, often far-right. Just this Tuesday, a day before the EU deal, French President Emmanuel Macron had to shatter his centrist coalition by enacting a flagship immigration bill to refuse foreigners social security benefits. His actions were taken by the left as desperate pandering to Marine Le Pen’s far-right coalition to survive the next election. The UK had also attempted to strike a beleaguered deal with Rwanda to outsource asylum applications, a strategy many European countries have been opting to pursue.
Full details are yet to be disclosed on the EU’s new approach; however, based on negotiations, the agreement is expected to be a complete overhaul of asylum policies, including detainment, racial profiling, and border control. The deal is comprised of five major laws: Screening Regulation, Asylum Procedures Regulation (APR), Crisis Regulation for alarming refugee influxes, Eurodac Regulation, which will update the massive biometric database, and Asylum and Migration Management Regulation (AMMR), which establishes options to manage refugee influxes. Particularly, two major decisions in the policy have since bathed in the public spotlight.
Per European Union regulations, individuals seeking asylum are required to claim asylum in the first country they arrive at. While this places a disproportionate administrative strain on the coastal member-states of the southern region, their northern and western European neighbors refuse to share the burden. The accord aims to tackle this issue through the equitable distribution of migrants throughout the bloc to lift the weight off the shoulders of the likes of Italy, Spain, and Greece, furthering cross-border consolidation and integration between EU members. Italian interior minister Piantedosi claimed that they “no longer feel alone.”
However, what invited the most backlash was the policy aiming to pace up deportation within the bloc through the amended Asylum Procedures Regulation (APR). According to the preliminary agreement, migrants and asylum seekers arriving in these front-line states will be vetted thoroughly at the borders, separated into categories based on the likelihood of their asylum claim being granted. Those identified as potential security risks or whose asylum claims are likely to be denied will be placed in border detention centers and subjected to fast-tracked deportation, including children and women.
Although EU officials and the front-line states have greatly averred the new policy, European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas called the amendments the “missing link,” but it was met ultimately with stern criticism from human rights organizations. Organizations condemned the amendments for greatly reducing asylum protections and putting new arrivals at great risk. The new rules would create “a surge in suffering,” Amnesty International said. “This agreement will set back European asylum law for decades to come.”
The new policy goes beyond the arguments of human rights or immigration. The accord not only interlinks the continental neighbors regarding such a critical issue and drives them to act as a single vessel, but it also builds walls enclosing the continent to create a sort of united fortress, aspects that may prove to act as a stepping stone for Euro-federalist ideals in the future. The current EU seems to be paving the way for a united Europe, whether by design or not.
“The EU Agrees on a Migration Deal, but Critics Warn of Possible Rights Abuses.” NPR, 20 Dec. 2023.
Henley, Jon. “EU Reaches Asylum Deal That Rights Groups Say Will Create ‘Cruel System.’” The Guardian, The Guardian, 20 Dec. 2023.
Jazeera, Al. “EU Member States Reach Deal on Migration Policy.” Al Jazeera, Al Jazeera, 4 Oct. 2023.