On 23th September the European Commission presented the highly anticipated New Pact on Migration and Asylum, a reform package that changes and integrates most of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) by introducing new mechanisms.
The Pact builds on a Communication that explains the rationales behind measures and outlines the new components and changes proposed, namely through nine instruments: five proposals for regulations, showing the Commission’s effort to ensure uniform, unconditional application in Member States, and non-binding acts (3 recommendations and 1 guideline). The Commission has also proposed an implementation roadmap, which means most of the measures might be adopted as early as 2021.
The new legal framework proposed does not replace the reform package presented in 2016 but, on the contrary, urges to adopt legislation that is at an advance negotiation stage. The only new legislative proposals are the Dublin IV regulation and the so-called Asylum procedure regulation.
The Pact offers a number of measures worth being mentioned and commented, first and foremost the reform of the Dublin system. Despite its new name (“Regulation on immigration and asylum management”), the overall structure of the system remains unchanged in ordinary situations, with a hierarchical identification of Member states responsible for examining applications for international protection, i.e. the country of first entry. However, the Pact introduces new provisions on responsibility sharing based on factors such as the existence of diplomas or qualifications issued by a Member state, the expansion of the number of family members, and the responsibility in search and rescue operations.
The innovative element is the inclusion of a new solidarity mechanism (Part IV). The mechanism allows for relocation of migrants in favour of Member states under high migratory pressure or in search and rescue operations, while allowing unwilling Member states to sponsor returns instead provided that return can be concluded within eight months. Another mechanism aiming at ”effectively deal[ing] with exceptional crisis situations” should replace the Temporary protection directive, hardly used in the past, and would concern situations of such massive flows as to seriously disrupt Member states’ asylum, reception and return systems and jeopardise the functioning of the Common European Asylum System.
Another new element is the introduction of a pre-entry screening procedure for people disembarked after search and rescue operations or reaching the EU external borders, without having the requirements for entry, and seeking international protection. The mechanism aims at identifying migrants and verify safety and health conditions while accelerating procedures for the recognition of international protection or return.
The Pact was the result of technical consultations with the European Parliament and Member states as well as with a wide range of stakeholders including civil society organisations, social partners and businesses. The Commission has also taken into account the debate around the 2016 package of proposals.
A round of complex negotiations will now open among Member states and EU institutions. The Pact features both elements of continuity and discontinuity, clearly showing the Commission’s attempt to overcome the existing deep divergences on the Dublin reform through a flexible scheme that combines diversified actions, obligations and options.
Alessia Di Pascale