Deadly limits of solidarity – the EU is struggling for its asylum policy – policy

The majority of EU member states now understand migration issues as a serious threat to the cohesion of the European Union. Therefore, in the search for common answers, progress is currently being made that seemed unthinkable for many years. On Thursday, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) will meet with her colleagues in Luxembourg to discuss new rules for the reception, distribution and repatriation of asylum seekers.

What is not on the agenda: a jointly organized sea rescue, as recently demanded by German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Greens). There would not be a remote majority for such a mission. The EU would certainly have reason to at least talk about this topic. This is shown by research into the devastating accident on February 26 off the Calabrian coast.

The approximately 180 refugees who got into distress on a boat off southern Italy could have been rescued if all the rules had been observed. Although the European border protection agency Frontex had informed the Italian authorities more than five hours before the accident that the boat with the name summer love was possibly overcrowded and no life jackets were visible, neither the Italian coast guard nor the customs authorities checked the safety of the passengers. This emerges from internal documents that Southgerman newspaper together with the Investigative Bureau Lighthouse Reports and other media partners could evaluate.

The sinking of summer love is one of the deadliest shipwrecks in the Mediterranean in recent years. 94 people died, including 35 children. Up to 30 people are still missing. Most of the passengers came from Afghanistan.

Member States of the EU are obliged to check whether ships in their sea rescue zone are endangered. A confidential report shows that Frontex had assumed a “possible migrant boat” at an early stage, as it found many people on board through heat measurements. The agency had also communicated this to the Italian authorities on the eve of the accident. The summer love was still about 70 kilometers from the coast at the time. This information was even available to the authorities responsible for sea rescue via a live stream from the Frontex aircraft’s on-board camera. However, the plane had to turn off earlier due to strong winds. An inspection by customs authorities’ boats apparently failed due to the bad weather conditions. The Coast Guard did not respond to the signs of distress. Against the authorities and the traffickers summer love is determined in Italy.

There are two central points in the asylum reform that the EU is currently negotiating

In March, the federal government took in 32 survivors of the accident in Germany. This is “a natural act of lived solidarity,” explained Faeser. The mandatory redistribution of refugees within the EU is one of the two central points in the current negotiations on asylum reform. The other is asylum procedures at the external borders. Asylum seekers with little chance of success should go through an accelerated procedure there and, if their application is rejected, be returned from there. In the future, people with better chances of asylum should only be able to stay if they have not already crossed a country that would have offered them protection.

The European Parliament has already agreed on these rules, the member states are still fighting for a position. Faeser repeatedly warns that the border-free Schengen area could fall if joint solutions are not found soon.

In the ongoing negotiations, Germany is pushing for families with children to be exempted from the procedures at the external borders, but there will probably not be a majority for this. Left-wing member of the Bundestag Clara Bünger criticizes the fact that the federal government failed to “bring human rights-based ideas into the talks at EU level” at an early stage.

EU diplomats have been preparing for the ministerial meeting on Thursday for weeks. Whether there can be a breakthrough remained open until the weekend. However, there are compromise lines. The states on the external borders should only have to complete the asylum procedures up to a certain number. States that do not want to take in asylum seekers should be able to buy their way out with large payments.

In order for a decision to be taken, 55 percent of the member states, representing 65 percent of the population, must agree. So Hungary and Poland alone could not block it. However, Italy is particularly important. According to the general understanding, nothing will be decided without the consent of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, because Italy will be mainly affected by the new rules.

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