Making Europe Solidary: Why the EU needs a common asylum and migration policy

, by Marie Menke, translated by Bastian De Monte

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

Making Europe Solidary: Why the EU needs a common asylum and migration policy
Many lives have been lost attempting to cross the Mediterranean in the recent past.
Foto: Unsplash / Perry Grone / Creative Commons

It’s election time this May and JEF Germany started the campaign #EuropaMachen for a better European Union. The New Federalist and its German sister edition Treffpunkt Europa look at their demands – this time: For a common European asylum and migration policy!

Member States vowed to cooperate in asylum questions. But their asylum systems are far from being harmonised. JEF Germany thus calls for a proper common EU asylum and migration policy. Proponents see human dignity breached under current circumstances, sceptics prefer closed borders.

What’s it all about?

Migration has been there since the early times of European integration. And has been a hot topic ever since. In fact, the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) already exists on paper. But it was only a first step towards cooperation in this area, sets minimum standards regarding asylum procedures as well as the accommodation of asylum seekers, and includes Eurodac, a Europe-wide fingerprint databank.

The problem: There has been no proper harmonisation of the various systems. An asylum seeker in Spain, for instance, will be accommodated under different standards than an asylum seeker in Hungary. On the other hand, there have still been people drowning in the Mediterranean or kept under inhumane conditions despite CEAS. JEF thus calls for a change, a harmonised and solidary common asylum system

What do critics say?

Some critics simply oppose the concept of open borders: They don’t think that European countries have the responsibility to accommodate people from other world regions who seek shelter. Instead, they want to fend them off or at least discourage them to come.

Other critics see the independence of nation-states in danger: Several countries have opposed European standards in the past; Hungary even breached international standards. Some of them simply want to decide themselves and independently from other Member States. In view of a common asylum system, they fear other countries can dictate who to take in and how to accommodate them.

And then again, some sceptics do see the problem but deem a truly solidary system utopian, i.e. impossible, because they think some countries simply won’t cooperate. Instead of common standards, they call on countries like Germany to lead with good example.

What do supporters say?

Supporters see a violation of the principle of human dignity under current circumstances: They want to put an end to people dying in the Mediterranean and to the inhumane conditions under which asylum seekers are kept in some European countries. Therefore they want to make the asylum system(s) more solidary, so that people can be offered a safe place in Europe. They argue that reinforced and closer cooperation will make the system more efficient as well: asylum procedures could be shortened, which would mean an advantage for all sides.

At the same time, proponents criticize national solo efforts: migration is a global phenomenon, leaving no room for single countries to find a solution. One country’s isolation is considered not only shows a lack of solidarity with people in need, but also those countries who do accept them. “Positive” solo efforts, i.e. countries accepting rescue crafts in their harbours, are seen as necessary but insufficient. CEAS may be a chance to guarantee humane treatment of asylum seekers in all of Europe – and beyond.

What’s your opinion?

Arnisa Halili
Social Media Manager at Treffpunkt Europa
“The EU has to put an end to the numerous deaths in the Mediterranean. We must not see human beings coming to us as numbers or something alien, but as part of our society. We therefore need to establish a sea rescue programme and harmonised, just, and solidary distribution of these people. We are all jointly responsible for accommodating these refugees.”

“No other topic has divided Germany and Europe as much as these discussions about asylum and migration. One reason is that we Europeans have turned a blind eye to this. We ignored the root causes forcing people away from their homes and the fact that Europe was ill-prepared. If we want to prevent ’asylum seekers’ from becoming an ’asylum crisis’, we need European solutions. Only together can we uphold the principle of humanity and find a sustainable solution to this challenge!”
Sebastian Lang
Vice-President JEF Germany

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