LUXEMBOURG — Italy finally gave its blessing.
Rome’s green light on Thursday evening unlocked a major deal to overhaul the EU’s asylum procedures for the first time in years after a grueling gathering of home affairs ministers in Luxembourg.
The accord would change both how asylum seekers are processed at the border and how they are relocated across Europe. While enough countries — including Germany and France — had come on board on Thursday afternoon, a coalition of about 10 states led by Italy blocked the agreement until late evening.
While the EU only needed majority support to push through the reform package, Italy’s backing was crucial because it receives some of the highest numbers of asylum seekers in the EU. Additionally, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has made cutting migration a key component of her hard-right platform… “It is the EU country that symbolizes migration.”
The migration package has several components. To begin, it would ensure that certain asylum seekers get processed immediately at the border and make it easier to return those whose applications are rejected. It would also allow countries to stop processing people at the border if they reach a certain limit.
The final sticking point for Italy was the proposed process for returning rejected asylum seekers, according to Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi.
A draft document seen by POLITICO stated there must be a “connection” between the rejected asylum seeker and the “safe third country.” In practical terms, the migrant must have “stayed” or “settled” in that country or have family members living there, according to the text.
But in a key concession to Italy, individual countries will be free to decide whether a foreign country fulfills such criteria, raising the possibility of asking places like Tunisia to accept migrants even if they weren’t born there — a situation similar to the Syrian refugees redirected from the EU to Turkey.
Under the deal, countries will also have to either accept a certain number of asylum seekers or contribute to a new pot of EU cash to finance undefined “projects” in non-EU countries, potentially including Tunisia.
Featured image source: Helena Malikova https://euobserver.com/eu-scream/156120
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