EU agrees major new rules to manage, cut migration

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Brussels: After years of wrangling, the European Union has reached an agreement on new rules designed to share the cost and hosting of migrants more evenly and to limit the numbers of people coming into the Continent.

Representatives of the European Parliament and of EU governments reached an accord after all-night talks on EU laws collectively called the New Pact on Migration and Asylum that should start taking effect next year.

The laws cover screening irregular migrants when they arrive in the European Union, procedures for handling asylum applications, rules on determining which EU country is responsible for handling applications and ways to handle crises.

An Italian Coast Guard boat carries rescued migrants as tourists watch near the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, southern Italy.Credit: LaPresse via AP

Migrant arrivals in the European Union are way down from the 2015 peak of more than 1 million, but have steadily crept up from a 2020 low to 255,000 this year to November, with more than half crossing the Mediterranean from Africa, mainly to Italy.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi called the pact a “great success” for Europe and Italy, that meant that EU border countries most exposed to migration would no longer feel alone.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said agreement was important and would relieve states affected – including Germany.

Previous efforts to share the responsibility of hosting migrants have foundered because eastern EU members in particular were unwilling to take in people who had arrived in Greece, Italy and other countries.

Under the new system, countries not at the border will have to choose between accepting their share of 30,000 asylum applicants or paying at least €20,000 euros ($32,400) per person into an EU fund.

The screening system will seek to distinguish between those in need of international protection and others who are not.

People whose asylum applications have a low chance of success, such as those from India, Tunisia or Turkey, could be prevented from entering the EU and detained at the border, as can people seen as representing a threat to security.

Processing of applications would also be sped up.

Amnesty International said the pact would set the EU back decades, and lead to greater suffering for people seeking asylum and make it harder for people to access safety.

“The pact will almost certainly cause more people to be put into de facto detention at EU borders, including families with children and people in vulnerable situations,” it said.


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