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European Union’s New Migration Pact

  • Context (TH | IE): The European Union (EU) has agreed on reforms designed to share the cost of hosting and limiting the numbers of migrants and refugees.
  • The pact still needs to be formally approved by the European Council, representing the 27 member nations, and the European Parliament.
  • Recently, the UK Supreme Court ruled the UK Government’s Rwanda Plan for Asylum unlawful.
  • The French Parliament also recently passed a new tough law on immigration.

Refugee vs. Asylum seeker vs. Migrant

Refugee

Asylum

Migrant

A refugee is a person who has fled their own country because they are at risk of persecution there. An asylum-seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution.

However, they haven’t yet been legally recognised as refugees and await the decision on their asylum claim.

There is no internationally accepted legal definition of a migrant.

Migrants are people staying outside their country of origin who are not asylum-seekers or refugees.

What’s in the EU New Pact on Migration and Asylum?

Screening Regulation

  • It envisions a pre-entry procedure to swiftly examine an asylum seeker’s profile and collect basic information such as nationality, age, fingerprints and facial image.

Expansion of Eurodac

  • Eurodac will be expanded to contain additional biometric data such as facial images.
  • It is a large-scale database that stores the biometric evidence collected during the screening process.

Asylum Procedures Regulation

  • It sets two possible steps for migrants:
    1. The traditional asylum procedure, which usually takes several months to complete and
    2. A fast-tracked border procedure meant to last 12 weeks.

Asylum and Migration Management Regulation

  • It establishes a system of “mandatory solidarity” that will offer countries three options to manage migration flows:
    1. Relocate a certain number of asylum seekers,
    2. Contribute for each claimant they refuse to relocate,
    3. Finance operational support.

Crisis Regulation

  • Exceptional rules that will apply when the bloc’s asylum system is threatened by a sudden and massive arrival of refugees, as was the case during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In these circumstances, national authorities can apply tougher measures, including longer detention periods.

What is the concern in the EU?

  • More than 1.8 million migrants, mostly from West Asia and Africa, have come to Europe since 2014.
  • The temporary migrant resettlement system was brought in 2015 to distribute migrants across the EU. However, it failed when many countries refused to meet their quotas.
  • Treatment of migrants and related policies are major challenges for EU countries.
  • Migration has now become a contentious electoral issue across Europe.
  • The right-wing populists are capitalising on an anti-migrant sentiment.

Reasons for the refugee crisis

  • The main causes behind the European Refugee crisis are listed below
    • Wars – Syrian War, Afghanistan war, Iraq war, Libyan war
    • Human Rights Violations
    • Economic hardships.
    • Dictatorship regimes and Islamic fundamentalism

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Asylum Policy of France

  • France has had a generous system for asylum-seekers.
  • It provides asylum seekers up to 300 euros a month while they wait for their papers to be processed.
  • They can apply for housing, get cheap meals, free health insurance and social security benefits while their application is being reviewed.

Fundamental Changes in the New French Law

  • Longer wait for non-EU migrants to get social welfare benefits.
  • Non-EU foreigners working in areas with a labour shortage, such as hospitality, construction and farming, can apply for a residency and work permit.
  • Review of unlimited access to government-funded medical care for illegal immigrants.
  • Asylum seekers whose behaviour constitutes a threat to public order can be placed in preventive detention, notably if there is a risk that the asylum seeker will flee.
  • Children of foreigners born in France will no longer get French citizenship automatically. They will have to request citizenship once they turn 16.
  • The French nationality of dual-nationals can be revoked if they are convicted of the voluntary homicide of a police officer or government representative.
  • Unless students have financial needs or excellent academic results, foreign students requesting a student residency permit must make a refundable deposit to cover potential “sending back” costs.

UK’s Rwanda Plan

  • The plan, officially known as the UK and Rwanda Migration and Economic Development Partnership, is an immigration policy proposed in 2022 by the British government.
  • Rwanda’s plan aims to reduce illegal migration and net migration numbers in the UK.
  • It involves relocating identified illegal immigrants or asylum seekers to Rwanda for processing, asylum, and resettlement.
  • The U.K. will bear the accommodation and transit costs. The government had paid the Rwandan government £140m for the scheme.
  • Successful asylum claimants would remain in Rwanda without the option to return to the UK.
  • Rwanda will be the sole authority to recognise or not recognise the refugee status of an individual.
  • If an individual is not recognised, they will be moved to their country of origin.
  • Rwanda was not the first country to be approached; Tanzania previously declined the Deal.
  • Policy would deter people arriving in the UK through “illegal/dangerous methods” — such as on small boats across the English Channel.

Why did the Judiciary Rule the Deal Unlawful?

  • The UK’s SC found evidence that asylum seekers face a real risk of ill-treatment from refoulement.
  • Rwanda’s human rights track record and non­compliance with assurances were taken as instances for considering the real risk of refoulement.
  • Refoulement is the practice of sending refugees or asylum seekers back to their country or to another country where they are likely to suffer lousy treatment.
  • Protection from refoulement is a fundamental right of asylum seekers and refugees.
  • ‘Non-refoulement’ is a principle of international law that forbids a country receiving asylum seekers from returning them to a country where they would be in danger of persecution based on race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Italy’s Response to Refugee and Asylum-Seeker Crisis

  • More than 600,000 migrants from Africa have arrived in Italy in recent years.
  • Italy wants to deport 500,000 of them and fix the migrant resettlement system.
  • It also wants to build migrant reception centres in Africa.
  • The German government has suspended a voluntary agreement with Italy to take in migrants, accusing Italy of failing to live up to its obligations under the EU’s Dublin rules on asylum.
  • Dublin Regulation: Refugees must apply for asylum in the EU country where they first landed or the one that has issued them an entry visa.
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