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Comments on the New Immigration and Asylum Pact of the European Union on behalf of “ANTIGONE”

General remarks:

The changes proposed by the new Immigration and Asylum Pact of the European Union (EU) are likely to lead to a recycling of existing EU policy deadlocks, as they are moving towards an institutional ratification of the EU increasingly restrictive policies. 

Thus, there are several uncertainties regarding the roles and responsibilities of the implementing bodies of the Pact, while there is no provision for proportional distribution of recognized beneficiaries and applicants for international protection.

Furthermore, protection of the external borders is being strengthened, but in fact without a system that provides for safe and legal passages for those who wish to have access to applications for international protection in the territories of the EU Member States. 

In specific, with the new Pact:

1.    The existing - extremely problematic in their implementation - formalities of reception and asylum in Greece are now formalized at European level, through the creation of a preliminary control mechanism (“pre-screening”), according to which those who are likely to receive international protection status, will follow the normal asylum procedure, while others will be subjected to a very fast asylum process, which is problematic in multiple ways.

2.    The system of return, readmission and reintegration into the countries of origin of all those who have applied for international protection and whose applications have been rejected is being strengthened, and for this reason "more support" will be given to the Member States by the European Border and Port Authority (FRONTEX), which is the responsible Coordinator (at EU level) for returns. The parallel provision for independent monitoring of human rights remains to be seen if and how it will be implemented. 

3.    The revision of the Schengen Borders Code is foreseen in 2021. In essence, this is an institutional strengthening of the control of the external borders of the European Union. It is noteworthy that FRONTEX is strengthened with staff and resources, while relevant electronic support is being developed. There is no provision for safe and legal routes for applicants for international protection, in accordance with the instructions of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

4.    The "legal obligation and moral duty" of the Member States bordering the sea to search for and rescue vessels with irregular aliens is repeated, but the responsibility for rescuing will be left to the Member States that have external borders at sea, and joint operations at EU level will not take place as was the case in previous years.

5.    A mechanism for legally binding relocations is envisaged, annually, under the auspices of the European Commission for cases of refugee and migration "pressure". Such an arrangement needs further specification and explanation as to whether its implementation is feasible and effective, while the procedures for implementing such a proposal seem time-consuming, bureaucratic and have uncertain results.

6.    Although the "Dublin 3" regulation, which trapped applicants for international protection in the first host countries (Greece, Italy, Spain), is repealed, its provisions will also apply to the new Pact in terms of their key points, and therefore a confinement of persons will continue during the following years as well.

7.    The action plan for the social integration of recognized beneficiaries of international protection in the EU Member States constitutes a mere declaration of intention without any further guidelines for its implementation.

25 September 2020

Athanasios Theodoridis, 
Advocacy Officer


New Pact on Immigration and Asylum
The new Immigration and Asylum Pact: A first assessment