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What Solidarity? The EU 2024 Pact on Asylum and Migration

Updated: Apr 29




At the end of 2023, the European Union announced that key agreements had been made regarding the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. This has been a long time coming since the initial proposal was first published in 2020. 


After 3 years, the European Commission has supposedly “proposed a new EU framework that manages and normalises migration for the long term.However, for as much as the word “new” is being used, complexity has been emphasised and the old system has been denounced, there is little to indicate that this Pact (on track to be formally approved by the European Council in 2024) is likely to create any improved conditions for those on the move or for the EU border countries who feel the most pressure.

 

Key Points of the Pact:


  • Eurodac regulation

This is the common database used across the EU to manage asylum applications. The system will be upgraded to be able to track irregular migration, and unauthorised movements and improve return. 


  • Asylum procedures regulation &  the pre-screening process.

With the aim of increasing the efficiency of the asylum procedure, the system will be revised and include border procedures. Central to this is the wider adoption of the pre-screening process. 

To provide some context to this, previously, conducting asylum processes at the border has only been permitted in exceptional circumstances. This includes when carrying out asylum procedures at the border was piloted in Italy in 2023 and the reception and identification procedure that has been implemented in Greece since the policy changes of 2021 and 2022. 


The first-step screening procedure will determine how non-EU nationals arriving in the EU irregularly will be received. The proposed timeframe for this procedure will be 5 days and a person will not be considered to have entered the EU before it’s completed. 

The screening will include health, identity, vulnerability and security checks as well as fingerprinting and registration in the Eurodac database. It will also be used to determine whether a person and their asylum case will be examined rapidly or whether they’ll permitted to apply for asylum through the regular channels. 


  • Asylum Migration Management Regulation 

Described as the new solidarity mechanism between member states, the intention behind this updated regulation is to ensure a more equitable distribution of people trying to claim asylum in Europe across the EU states. 


The first county of entry principle will be maintained - where people arriving are obliged to apply for asylum or other forms of legal stay in the member state of first entry - and there will be a mandatory solidarity mechanism put in place. This will focus on relocation and return sponsorship, where Member States are obliged to provide support to another Member State under pressure. 


However, should a Memberstate decide not to assist in relocating those on the move, they are also able to make a financial contribution, of €20,000 per person, to a shared EU fund as an alternative. 


  • Crisis and Force Majeure Regulation

This regulation sets out what happens if there is a ‘crisis’ at an EU external border. A new Migration Preparedness and Crisis Blueprint will be created that will detail key measures and protocols that should be in place. 


Crucially, alongside this, it allows member states to take a flexible approach to border and asylum procedures in a seemingly self-defined time of ‘crisis’. This would include being able to extend registration deadlines and processes for as much as a month.  



Continuing down the path of unfair and dangerous asylum procedures.


For a pact that is supposed to normalise migration and be based on human rights, the word ‘return’ appears 97 times, ‘crisis’ appears 29 times and ‘rights’ appears 14 times


Demonstrating, even at first glance, where the real intention behind this Pact lies–to continue to treat people on the move with suspicion and view asylum and human rights as an obligation to be avoided through the strengthening and monitoring of the EU’s external borders. 


  • Detained and left in limbo

5 days is not enough time to fairly assess whether a person should be allowed access to the asylum system. 


The previously mentioned, similar system in Greece has led to an unjust system where the people arriving are unfairly assessed and aren’t given access to NGOs or legal assistance. Particularly, as there are difficulties in obtaining the amount of staff required to carry out health and vulnerability checks, this has led to considerable delays. 


This pre-screening procedure, therefore comes with significant risk to those on the move, their mental health and the right of asylum. Not only are people less likely to get fair access to their asylum rights, but likely increased delays will put pressure on the system and risk placing a significant amount of people arriving in detention as they exist in limbo between having not legally entered the territory nor being able to return. 


  • Lack of recognition

Borders are often an instrument of racism. However, what we see in the new pact with the implementation of the pre-screening process and the continued reliance on the Eurodac database is the increased provision of biased and racial profiling. 


In the pre-screening process, those who come from a country where there are low recognition rates will be examined rapidly and not permitted to legally enter the EU territory. This doubles down on the existing issues surrounding a lack of recognition of a person’s background, history or situation. 


It risks increased rejection rates to many people from countries such as Colombia, where despite the threat of violence they often struggle to prove that they conform to the refugee convention (as exemplified here); or Nigeria, where many are dismissed as not having a claim (as exemplified here) and where racism and sexism intersect so women who experience trafficking and/or widespread gender-based or domestic violence are misunderstood, detained and often rejected. 


Recognition rates don’t indicate whether a person should be entitled to a rapid or carefully considered asylum procedure. Instead, they indicate how pervasive systemic bias and violence are even in individual asylum cases. 


Moreover, the inclusion of recognition rates into the initial screening process, highlights how ill-equipped this Pact is to protect the human rights of the future as natural and climate-related disasters remain unrecognised and undefined, despite the EU Commission and UNHCR’s admission that millions have been displaced as a result of climate disasters. 


  • Continued pressure on Europe’s external borders

This new Pact is also likely to continue the existing pressure placed on Europe’s external border countries, largely Greece, Italy and Spain. 


As previously mentioned, the first country principle will be maintained and member states will be given the choice of either relocating new arrivals or paying €20,000 per person, should they choose not to admit someone. On top of this, the proposal to expand the definition of family, which would allow for more family reunification, has been rejected, whilst the amount of time that a member state will be responsible for a new arrival has increased from 6 months to 2 years. 


Combined, this is likely to mean that many people will have to remain in Europe’s border countries, often in precarious and vulnerable conditions. 


Furthermore, there are no clear specifications for how the €20,000 has to be spent, meaning it can be funnelled into further surveillance or further externalisation projects, that prevent people on the move from accessing EU borders. 


Given the current and pervasive anti-migration discourse across Europe, it is easy to see how this will allow many states to pay their way out of their responsibilities. Commodifying the right of asylum and diminishing Europe’s collective commitment to Human Rights. 


What Solidarity?

The Pact has a multitude of issues. Most importantly, there continues to be no emphasis placed on the well-being or humanisation of people who are on the move. From placing a price per head at €20,000 to creating fast rejection procedures to maintaining the Dublin system to, again, failing to establish safe and legal routes to the EU. 


What is clear is that ‘solidarity’ is little more than a meaningless buzzword in this Pact. A meaningless buzzword in a Pact that will, nevertheless, have consequences–as people are pushed towards dangerous routes, human rights are weakened and lives will continue to be lost. 


To go further:


For more details, information and reading, take a look at the research and articles made by Seawatch,European Network Again Racism - ENAR, or PICUM.

The Border Violence Monitoring Network also recorded a webinar on the topic:





*We're volunteers and asylum and migration is a complex topic. We do our best to research and use our own expertise accurately. However, we also believe it's vital to encourage healthy discussion and stop misinformation. Therefore we encourage any feedback or  constructive criticism of our work.

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