Commission proposes to speed up asylum screening in ‘controlled centres’ in the EU

A boat overcrowded with migrants trying to reach Italy.

The European Commission put forward a proposal on Tuesday (24 July) to provide financial support to the member states in setting up “controlled centres” on their territory, whose aim is to expedite the assessment of asylum claims in the EU.

In line with the conclusions of the June European Council, the Commission proposed today to speed up the screening of people who arrive in the EU by setting up disembarkation platforms in frontline countries and controlled centres in member states.

The aim of the centres is to ensure the “rapid, secure and effective” process to differentiate between irregular migrants and asylum seekers, the Commission said in a non-paper.

People rescued in the Mediterranean will be assessed within 72 hours to determine whether they might be subject to international protection or not. If a migrant does not seek asylum or is not eligible, Frontex will provide escort officers and will help to facilitate both forced and voluntary returns.

Asylum seekers, on the other hand, will be transferred to the so-called ‘controlled centre’ established with EU support in volunteer member states, where they will remain while the request is assessed. However, so far, not a single EU country has shown its intention to host these centres.

The authorities should make a decision on the application within eight weeks at most. If the process takes place in a frontline country, the refugee might be reallocated. If not, that person will remain in the country where she or he applied for asylum.

The Commission will support member states financially to set up the centres as well as throughout the process. Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office and Europol will also provide technical assistance.

Furthermore, the EU will help the countries reallocating people from disembarkation platforms with €6.000 per person and will cover the cost of the transfer, to encourage solidarity among the member states, as it did in 2015.

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The Australian model

The Commission has also moved forward on the idea of setting up regional disembarkation platforms outside the EU, in cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR.

The Commission encouraged the coastal countries to fully implement international law in the Mediterranean Sea, create a Search and Rescue area and increase cooperation to save lives.

Italy said on Monday it would keep taking in migrants,  but not for long, thus the EU needs a long-term solution.

People rescued in the Mediterranean Sea both by European or non-European vessels could be disembarked in third countries, based on agreements with them.

The Commission insisted the agreements with third countries will be based “on existing partnerships and taking into account each specific political, legal, security and socio-economic situation.” The EU will provide hosting countries with financial and technical assistance to manage migration.

People rescued at sea will be disembarked and transported to reception facilities. There, they will be registered, screened and receive assistance based on their specific needs.

People in need of international protection might be eligible for resettlement programmes but not necessarily to Europe and not all of them in any case, the Commission warned. Those who are not will be returned.

“In all cases, a solution must be achieved within a reasonable time frame. Throughout the different steps, close cooperation between UNHCR, IOM, and host country authorities will be paramount,” the Commission insisted.

The EU needs now to work on convincing Northern African countries to host these disembarkations platforms. Although Dimitris Avramopoulus, the commissioner for migration, admitted a few weeks ago there were ongoing contacts with several countries, EU sourced insisted on Tuesday no specific country has been contacted yet.

EURACTIV understands that, just like with the controlled centres, countries seem to be reluctant to host the platforms. However, EU sources believe it will be easier to convince third countries to collaborate once a more concrete offer is presented.

How much the EU will spend on this, EU sources said, is not clear yet but is estimated in “hundreds of thousands of euros”.

Member states will evaluate on Wednesday (25 July) the Commission proposal at the level of ambassadors and will hold a joint meeting with the IOM and the UNHCR in Geneva next week.

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