EU lawmakers approve an overhaul of migration law, hoping to deprive the far right of votes

BRUSSELS — European Union lawmakers approved Wednesday a major revamp of the bloc’s migration laws aimed at ending years of division over how to manage the entry of thousands of people without authorization and depriving the far right of a vote-winning campaign issue ahead of June elections.

The members of the European Parliament voted on the so-called Pact on Migration and Asylum, regulations and policies meant to help address the thorny issue of who should take responsibility for migrants when they arrive and whether other EU countries should be obliged to help.

The proceedings were briefly interrupted by a small but noisy group of demonstrators in the public gallery who wore shirts marked “this pact kills” and shouted “vote no!”

The 27 EU member countries must now endorse the reform package, possibly in a vote in late April, before it can enter force.

The plan was drawn up after 1.3 million people, mostly those fleeing war in Syria and Iraq, sought refuge in Europe in 2015. The EU’s asylum system collapsed, reception centers were overwhelmed in Greece and Italy, and countries further north built barriers to stop people entering.

But few have admitted to being happy with the new policy response to one of Europe’s biggest political crises, and even the lawmakers who drafted parts of the new regulations are unwilling to support the entire reform package.

“I’m not going to open a bottle of champagne after this,” Dutch lawmaker Sophie i’nt Veld, who drew up the assembly’s position on migrant reception conditions, told reporters on the eve of the plenary session in Brussels. She said she planned to abstain from some of the votes.

In’t Veld described the pact as “the bare minimum” in terms of a policy response, but she does not want to torpedo it by voting against. “We will not have another opportunity to come to an agreement,” she said.

Swedish parliamentarian Malin Bjork, who worked on refugee resettlement, said that the pact does not respond to “any of the questions it was set to solve.”

She said the reform package “undermines the individual right to seek asylum” in Europe because it would build on plans that some EU countries already have to process migrants abroad. Italy has concluded one such deal with Albania.

“We cannot have a situation where people systematically, in their thousands, die on their way seeking protection and refuge in Europe,” Bjork told reporters.

The new rules include controversial measures: facial images and fingerprints could be taken from children from the age of 6, and people may be detained during screening. Fast-track deportation could be used on those not permitted to stay.

“The pact will lead to more detention and de facto detention at the EU’s external borders, including for families with children, which is in clear violation of international law,” said Marta Gionco from Picum, a network of migrant rights defense organizations.

Mainstream political parties want to secure agreement on the pact ahead of Europe-wide elections on June 6-9. Migration is likely to be a campaign issue, and they believe the new reforms address concerns about an issue that has been a consistent vote-winner for far-right parties.

your ad here

leave a reply: