Only three additional member states join the new relocation system after Justice and Home Affairs Meeting

On October 8, European Justice and Home Affairs ministers met to discuss the new relocation framework set up by Finland, France, Germany, Italy, and Malta, which is based on voluntary collaborations amongst member states. The new deal holds that within four weeks, migrants and refugees will be either relocated amongst participating member states or returned if they are not in need of asylum. The arrangement is expected to run until the new college of commissioners takes over in November 2019. Only three additional member states pledged to join the deal after the meeting.

Lack of support from member states

Only three additional member states, Ireland, Luxembourg, and Portugal, have agreed to take part in the new relocation system, showing a reluctance of other member states to accept migrants and refugees saved at sea. The lack of support shows, according to  Luxembourg’s minister for migration, Jean Asselborn, that states which have previously refused to accept migrants and refugees still “remain against it”. Asselborn further expresses his disappointment by asking “why us, and why no one else?”, indicating a wish for more support from other member states.

Current Commissioner for migration, Dimitris Avramopoulos hoped that EU countries would have welcomed the new arrangement and would have shown solidarity with other member states by participating in the new system. However, the number of participating member states shows that migration still divides member states.

New deal has met much criticism

While many newspapers and human rights organisations welcome the new deal and see it as a “positive step”, the new deal has also been highly criticised. It is argued by the Secretary General of Caritas Europa that it has not been clear from the draft “what constitutes as safe place of docking”, which helps to legitimise the deal on returns made with the Libyan Coast Guard. It is claimed that the new deal is missing the means of enforcement, as no  “quotas or punishment” are in place for non-participating states. Quotas have been considered as a possible part of the deal, but it was noted that this could potentially anger some states, forcing them to further abstain from the agreement.

The deal has also been questioned by Danish minister for integration, Mattias Tesfaye, who worry that the new deal will encourage people to seek towards Europe in boats and thus called the deal “a step in the wrong direction”.

A new relocation system is needed

Italy and France have requested a new asylum system that seeks to allocate refugees and migrants in a fair manner that moves away from the currently used Dublin Regulation, which obliges refugees and migrants to seek asylum in the first country of entry. Last week during the LIBE Committee hearing, participants expressed that the Dublin Regulation must be changed to avoid further pressuring the Southern EU member states, which are currently the ones taking in many people arriving from the Mediterranean Sea. Maria Nyman, Secretary General of Caritas Europa, argues that a new type of relocation system is needed, where “humanitarian assistance is never criminalised”.

The view on the Dublin Regulation is shared by Avramopoulos, who claims that the EU “cannot just try to find ad-hoc solutions. We need a permanent mechanism”, suggesting that the EU needs a long-term policy system towards migration. Regarding this, Avramopoulos has expressed that “we [the EU] have to continue trying to convince member states” by working on new solutions in an EU framework.