‘Controlled centres’ for migrants – not ‘hotspots’, say EU leaders

The EU28 leaders came to an agreement on migration in the early hours of the morning, on 29 June. [© European Union]

The idea of “controlled centres” for migrants, put forward in last week’s European Council’s conclusions, is strikingly similar to the 2015 project of “hotspots”. EURACTIV.fr reports.

The EU28 agreement on migration provides for the creation of “controlled centres” in EU member states as a way to speed up the processing of asylum requests and assit countries like Italy cope with the burden of the migration crisis.

The “controlled centres” will be set up on a voluntary basis only, a concession made to the Visegrad countries – Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic – which have signalled their staunch opposition to the arrival of migrants on their territory.  

At first sight, this seems like a good compromise between the Visegrad hardliners and first line countries like Italy and Greece, which have come under pressure because of their geographical position.

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The idea of making countries pay if they are not willing to take in refugees – already debated and taboo – now seems to be the only way to solve the tricky issue of migrants’ allocation.

However, there is a striking lack of consensus on the term “controlled centres” itself, which revives memories of the “hotspots” created in 2015-16. These disembarkation centres in Greece and Italy allowed for the identification and sorting of migrants and refugees, before their redistribution across the EU.

“The difference [between the two terms] is mainly semantic, because Italy has bad memories of these hotspots,” explained a French source. “Hotspots” have indeed come under criticism because they were open, and left migrants free to move around and leave.

During a briefing with the press, the exact nature of these centres was the main question put to the French Minister of European Affairs, Nathalie Loiseau. When asked if the centres would be entirely closed, she replied: “These will not be closed centres, but centres from which migrants cannot leave”. Once again, everything comes down to semantics.

The “reception sharing mechanism has been put into effect,” said a French source. “This successfully put an end to the political tension seen in recent weeks. “

The controversial Dublin system, which states that the first country of arrival of a migrant is the country that has to register the asylum application, remains unchanged, although its possible reform was eagerly awaited from the summit.

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According to French sources, discussions will resume soon. The reform of the Dublin Regulation is a reassuring guarantee for the Visegrad countries.

Concrete measures resulting from the agreement will be developed at the end of the summer, but solutions will have to be found on an ad hoc basis, as the establishment and funding of these centres could take some time.

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The European Parliament debated the priorities for Europe on Tuesday, ahead of a crucial EU summit due on 28-29 June. Among those priorities, the reform of the Dublin regulation seems the most pressing and MEPs urged EU leaders to find an agreement on the asylum system.

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