13 November 2015

Following another extraordinary meeting of the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 9 November, EU interior ministers agreed on a number of measures to handle the refugee and migration crisis, including measures to overcome the potential lack of cooperation from people arriving into the EU.

In particular, they agreed to make use of EU law to accelerate asylum procedures, conduct border procedures, use ‘coercive measures’ including detention and forced fingerprinting of people entering the EU. Alongside this, ministers want to define an information strategy geared at ‘reducing pull factors’, explaining that all migrants must register in the first Member State of arrival. Furthermore, they intend to take measures to ensure that onward movement and non-cooperation are discouraged. ECRE has already expressed alarm over the use of coercive measures and detention for asylum seekers who refuse to be fingerprinted, given the dubious legal basis to do so. The disproportionate nature of such measures, in ECRE’s view, is an affront to the physical integrity of refugees and an assault on their human rights.

The Luxembourg foreign affairs minister, and president of the Council, Jean Asselborn acknowledged the need to slow down and control the scale of refugee movements, so as to make it more manageable. Work on ‘hotspots’ will therefore be intensified to make all of them operational by the end of the November; Italy and Greece are moreover required to accelerate the preparatory steps necessary for relocation. In addition, the Council agreed to explore the concept of processing centres in countries where the ‘hotspot approach’ is not being used, in order to organise access to international protection and/or for the purpose of return. It is understood that these will be set up both inside and outside the EU, with a focus on Western Balkan countries.

Only 147 people have been relocated under the EU scheme so far, with a target of 160,000.  In addition, Sweden – which had committed to accepting refugees relocated from Italy and Greece – is now seeking the relocation of those arriving on its territory to other EU countries. 

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 13 November 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.