On December 20, the EU agreed on a policy which will have the effect of restricting asylum. This new policy, which has been in the works for some time, roughly parallels the movement in the U.S. toward amnesty restrictions now being hashed out in the Senate.
Background: The number of persons seeking asylum in the EU rose from about 200,000 in 2010 to 900,000 in 2022. Much of the increase is due to the emigration of Ukrainians. This wave comes after a surge from elsewhere. The Arab Spring in 2011 and the Syrian Civil War triggered a substantial increase in asylum seekers, culminating in the 2015 European migrant crisis, when one million persons crossed into the EU with asylum claims. Africans crossing the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, which was annually in the low 1,000s 10 years ago, have risen to over 50,000 in recent years.
According to the NY Times, the new agreement among the 27 participating countries, worked on for three years, aims to make it easier to deport failed asylum seekers and to limit entry of migrants into the bloc. It spreads the cost of asylum applications throughout the EU, most directly affecting Greece and Italy, It seeks to give governments a greater sense of control over their borders while bolstering the E.U.’s role in migration management — treating it as a European issue, not just a national one.
The pact stipulates that rapid assessments of whether a person is eligible for asylum will take place at borders. It would make it harder for asylum seekers to move on from the countries they arrive in — while offering further support to those nations through a so-called “solidarity mechanism.”
Amnesty International blasted the agreement, saying that it will almost certainly cause more people to be put into de facto detention at EU borders. There will be reduced safeguards for people seeking asylum in the EU, with more people channelled through substandard border asylum procedures, rather than receiving a fair and full assessment of their asylum claims.