The EU Asylum Deal – A better future for refugees?

Dear all,


I hope you had a good start to the week. 


Almost ten years ago, Europe fought heavily over how to fairly distribute asylum-seekers from Syria. Back then, law-makers vowed to reform the EU’s asylum policy. They were set on finding solutions to relocate people across Europe. Since then, no agreement has been found and our ‘non-system’ has deteriorated to ad-hoc deterrence and shady deals with countries outside the EU. Basically, since then we have been in an ongoing crisis. 


With European elections coming up in June 2024, the pressure is especially high to finalise the long overdue reform of the common European asylum system. I am part of the Parliament’s negotiating team on one of the asylum laws – the EU crisis regulation – which sets out new rules for situations when a lot of asylum seekers come at the same time.


Last Thursday, we again sat together with the capitals in late-night negotiations. The aim was to conclude the negotiations, but we sadly made little progress. The Spanish Presidency (representing EU’s capitals) had very limited room for compromises. So Parliament urged the Spanish ambassador to go back to the EU27 interior ministers and ask for more concessions. The next round of negotiations will take place next week Tuesday, 18 December. 


In my law, the crisis regulation, I will continue to fight for 3 key elements.




Mandatory relocation


When I started my work as a negotiator on the crisis regulation, I held dozens of conversations with civil society organizations and local asylum units to ask what types of measures are necessary to help countries cope with large arrivals of asylum-seekers at their borders. With one voice, everyone agreed that the main aid that central governments and the EU should provide is swift mandatory relocation of individuals from islands to the mainland and then to other EU countries. Yet, ten years later, it seems impossible to agree on this… From the Parliament’s side, the crisis regulation is the only law that proposes mandatory relocation. This is why for me it is so important that, if we win something in this file, it will be a mandatory relocation mechanism. Otherwise, we are left with a law that has limited added value and purely allows countries to weaken their obligations, by jailing more people in camps at the borders.


Limit derogations that would increase the number of persons transferred to the mandatory border procedures (i.e. prisons)


In the revised Asylum Procedures Regulation – a parallel law that is also part of the ongoing negotiations – the Parliament and Council are currently discussing the possibility to place asylum-seekers with a recognition rate of 20% or lower into mandatory border procedures. In practice, this would mean detaining asylum-seekers at the EU’s external borders, without allowing them to enter the EU’s territory (i.e. the legal fiction of non-entry) for at least 3 months. In the Council’s proposal, children and families are not exempt from such procedures. This is very much against my values, and against what Volt stands for. In the crisis regulation, the EU heads of states are pushing to extend mandatory border procedure to applicants with high recognition rates of up to 75% or even 100%! This means that in times of crisis Member States could even detain those applicants who are most likely going to get protection, such as Syrians and Eritreans, for months on end.


Fight against the inclusion of the concept of instrumentalization


The Parliament has criticised that this concept has no place in asylum law and even commissioned an impact assessment, which found that the concept and rules that follow would threaten the fundamental rights of asylum-seekers. Overall, I believe that it is inhumane to punish people, who are ‘weaponised’ to enter, for decisions made by autocratic regimes. It should be clear that this is a foreign policy issue which is best dealt with via bilateral relations between individual countries, and has no place in asylum law. Yet, despite our vocal objection to including the concept, it appears that the majority of the Parliament will cave to the pressure from the Member States. In this case, it is important that if the concept is included, it does not have any additional legal implications and that the definition is as narrow as possible. For instance, non-state actors should not be identified for the instrumentalisation regulation.

As we approach the open-ended negotiations on the 18 December, this week will be a marathon of work for both us politicians and our teams, to find suitable compromises.

In this marathon, I will work hard to not lose sight of what is important – and that is a European asylum system that is effective, efficient and humane!