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A common asylum policy for the EU

Path going along a high wall.
When a boat loaded with refugees sank off the coast of the island of Lampedusa in October, many demanded immediate measures for those placed at risk by migration, at the European, national and international levels. In light of this, the common asylum policy of the EU is important.

The number of international migrants has increased from 175 million at the turn of the millennium to 232 million today, and it continues to rise. In 2012, 330,000 asylum applications were made to EU countries. Of these, as many as 7 of 10 were registered in only five European countries, of which Sweden is one, along with Germany, France, Belgium and the UK. It is unfortunate that the figures are so unevenly distributed, since the most important foundations of a functioning EU are solidarity, support and reciprocity.

A common asylum policy for the EU

In the summer of 2013, the EU decided on a common asylum policy after a number of proposals from Cecilia Malmström, the Swedish EU Commissioner. For example, she noted for example that far too few of the 28 EU member states today receive so-called quota refugees (refugees that the UN has designated as such). Her proposals pointed the way to a common asylum policy for the EU where the member states agreed to:

  • Increase the number of the quota refugees accepted by the EU countries.
  • Increase the number of legal and safe ways of reaching Europe, e.g. by means of additional resettlement, ideally in collaboration with the UN. Humanitarian visas could be very useful in this context.
  • Make it more difficult to earn money from people-smuggling.
  • Make the reception of refugees more humanitarian and safe.

The EU Commission: "More resources needed for common asylum work"

The EU Commission emphasises the importance of more resources, of coordinating rescue measures when a catastrophe like the Lampedusa one occurs, of the right to an interpreter and legal representation, of an upper limit to how long a person should have to wait for an asylum decision, the possibility of applying for asylum at the embassies of EU countries, and of the EU countries themselves assigning more technological and financial resources to issues of migration.

Important statement to the UN

Cecilia Malmström represented the Commission at the UN’s high-level meeting in the spring, where she spoke of the importance of improved mobility of labour, of treating migration as a positive for factor for development, of protecting migrants’ human rights irrespective of their legal status, and of paying more consideration to the links between migration and climate change and environmental destruction.

“Last summer, after almost 14 years of negotiations, the Union agreed on a common asylum policy,” writes Cecilia Malmström on her blog, “and in doing so proved that it is possible to agree on crucial issues in spite of economic crises and difficulties. … If the will is there, it is possible to agree on things that were previously believed to be impossible.”

               Johanna Wester

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