Migration policy: Council reaches agreement on key asylum and migration laws

Migration policy: Council reaches agreement on key asylum and migration laws


The Council today took a decisive step towards a modernisation of the EU’s rulebook for asylum and migration. It agreed on a negotiating position on the asylum procedure regulation and on the asylum and migration management regulation. This position will form the basis of negotiations by the Council presidency with the European Parliament.

“No member state can deal with the challenges of migration alone. Frontline countries need our solidarity. And all member states must be able to rely on the responsible adherence to the agreed rule. I am very glad that on this basis we agreed on our negotiating position,” said Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish minister for migration.

Streamlining of asylum procedure

The asylum procedure regulation (APR) establishes a common procedure across the EU that member states need to follow when people seek international protection. It streamlines the procedural arrangements (e.g. the duration of the procedure) and sets standards for the rights of the asylum seeker (e.g. being provided with the service of an interpreter or having the right to legal assistance and representation).

The regulation also aims to prevent abuse of the system by setting out clear obligations for applicants to cooperate with the authorities throughout the procedure.

Border procedures

The APR also introduces mandatory border procedures, with the purpose to quickly assess at the EU’s external borders whether applications are unfounded or inadmissible. Persons subject to the asylum border procedure are not authorised to enter the member state’s territory.

The border procedure would apply when an asylum seeker makes an application at an external border crossing point, following apprehension in connection with an illegal border crossing and following disembarkation after a search and rescue operation. The procedure is mandatory for member states if the applicant is a danger to national security or public order, he/she has misled the authorities with false information or by withholding information and if the applicant has a nationality with a recognition rate below 20%.

The total duration of the asylum and return border procedure should be not more than 6 months.

Adequate capacity

In order to carry out border procedures, member states need to establish an adequate capacity, in terms of reception and human resources, required to examine at any given moment an identified number of applications and to enforce return decisions.

At EU level this adequate capacity is 30 000. The adequate capacity of each member state will be established on the basis of a formula which takes account of the number of irregular border crossings and refusals of entry over a three-year period.

Modification of Dublin rules

The asylum and migration management regulation (AMMR) should replace, once agreed, the current Dublin regulation. Dublin sets out rules determining which member state is responsible for the examination of an asylum application. The AMMR will streamline these rules and shorten time limits. For example, the current complex take back procedure aimed at transferring an applicant back to the member state responsible for his or her application will be replaced by a simple take back notification.

New solidarity mechanism

To balance the current system whereby a few member states are responsible for the vast majority of asylum applications, a new solidarity mechanism is being proposed that is simple, predictable and workable. The new rules combine mandatory solidarity with flexibility for member states as regards the choice of the individual contributions. These contributions include relocation, financial contributions or alternative solidarity measures such as deployment of personnel or measures focusing on capacity building. Member states have full discretion as to the type of solidarity they contribute. No member state will ever be obliged to carry out relocations.

There will be a minimum annual number for relocations from member states where most persons enter the EU to member states less exposed to such arrivals. This number is set at 30 000, while the minimum annual number for financial contributions will be fixed at €20 000 per relocation. These figures can be increased where necessary and situations where no need for solidarity is foreseen in a given year will also be taken into account.

In order to compensate for a possibly insufficient number of pledged relocations, responsibility offsets will be available as a second-level solidarity measure, in favour of the member states benefitting from solidarity. This will mean that the contributing member state will take responsibility for the examination of an asylum claim by persons who would under normal circumstances be subject to a transfer to the member state responsible (benefitting member state). This scheme will become mandatory if relocation pledges fall short of 60% of total needs identified by the Council for the given year or do not reach the number set in the regulation (30 000).

Preventing abuse and secondary movements

The AMMR also contains measures aimed at preventing abuse by the asylum seeker and avoiding secondary movements (when a migrant moves from the country in which they first arrived to seek protection or permanent resettlement elsewhere). The regulation for instance sets obligations for asylum seekers to apply in the member states of first entry or legal stay. It discourages secondary movements by limiting the possibilities for the cessation or shift of responsibility between member states and thus reduces the possibilities for the applicant to chose the member state where they submit their claim.

While the new regulation should preserve the main rules on determination of responsibility, the agreed measures include modified time limits for its duration:

  • the member state of first entry will be responsible for the asylum application for a duration of two years
  • when a country wants to transfer a person to the member state which is actually responsible for the migrant and this person absconds (e.g. when the migrant goes into hiding to evade a transfer) responsibility will shift to the transferring member state after three years
  • if a member state rejects an applicant in the border procedure, its responsibility for that person will end after 15 months (in case of a renewed application)

Both pieces of legislation on which the Council reached a general approach are part of the pact on migration and asylum which consists of a set of proposals to reform EU migration and asylum rules. This New Pact on Migration and Asylum from 23 September 2020 was accompanied by a number of legislative proposals. Among them, an asylum and migration management regulation and an amendment to the proposal from 2016 for an asylum procedure regulation.

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