Stiff Fines Proposed For EU Members That Refuse to Admit Asylum Seekers

By Barbara Hollingsworth | May 5, 2016 | 2:03pm EDT
More migrants from the war-torn Middle East arrive at the Greek island of Lesbos. (AP photo)

(CNSNews.com)  -- Under a new proposal by the European Commission (EC), members of the European Union (EU) would be fined 250,000 euros ($285,000 USD) for every asylum seeker from the Middle East and North Africa they refuse to accept from a fellow EU country.

The “solidarity contribution” would be imposed primarily on Eastern European countries that have rejected the EU’s mandatory refugee quotas, including The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.

The fine must first be approved by two-thirds of EU members before it goes into effect.

Greece and Italy have been inundated with refugees from Syria and other countries due to the fact that EU’s Dublin Regulation requires them to apply for asylum in the European country in which they first arrive.

But the EU met stiff resistance when it pledged to relocate asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU member nations. As of March 15, only 937 of the estimated 160,000 migrants that EU members promised to resettle have been transferred from Greece and Italy to other EU countries, according to the commission.

In a May 4 press release, the EC said that “the lack of fairness in the current system – with a handful of Member States placed under disproportionate pressure by having to deal with the majority of asylum applications – creates a disincentive for the full implementation of the rules” governing asylum, which were “not designed for situations of large-scale uncontrolled arrivals.”

“The new system will automatically establish when a country is handling a disproportionate number of asylum applications by comparison to the overall number of asylum claims made in the EU,” the press release stated. It would then allocate new asylum applications “across the EU… by reference to a country’s size and wealth.”

If an EU country opts to “temporarily not take part in the allocation… it would have to make a financial solidarity contribution of 250,000 euros to the Member State receiving an applicant for whom it would otherwise have been responsible under the fairness mechanism.”

A new automated system to register all asylum applicants, which would be administered by a newly formed EU Agency for Asylum, would trigger the “fairness mechanism” whenever the number of asylum applications in a particular country reached 150 percent of their allocation.

“For the first time, the new system introduces clear legal obligations for applicants,” including a requirement that they be fingerprinted and only apply for asylum “in the Member State of first irregular entry,”  the EC said. That country would also have the obligation to “check whether the applicant comes from a safe country of origin or presents a security risk.”

The detention period was reduced from six to four weeks under the proposal. “Detention can only take place in order to carry out the transfer in cases where there is a significant risk of absconding and only if no other less coercive alternative measures can be applied effectively.”

The EC claims the proposed new system, which would replace the EU’s existing emergency relocation regulations that expire in September 2017, would be “more efficient…prevent abuses… and protect asylum seekers’ best interests.”

But some European leaders who would either have to start accepting large numbers of refugees or pay a hefty fine if the proposal is adopted were vehement in their opposition.

“This is the kind of blackmail that will lead nowhere,” said Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto after a meeting of Eastern European diplomats in Prague. “Only the Hungarian people have the right to decide on whom we let into our country.”

"I'm still wondering if it's a serious proposal, because it sounds like an idea announced on April Fool's Day," Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski responded to the EC proposal.

“I am unpleasantly surprised that the commission is returning to play a proposal upon which there is not agreement,” said Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek.

The EC also agreed to lift travel restrictions on Turkish citizens, who would be allowed visa-free entry to the EU’s 26-nation Schengen Area in return for a promise to help reduce migrant flows into Europe.

But Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Organ, who put up a barbed wire fence to prevent refugees from entering his country via Serbia and Croatia, blasted the deal, saying that the EU has “sold out to Turkey”.

“The security of the European Union cannot be in the hands of a power outside the EU,” Organ said.

Related: EU, Turkey Strike Heralded Migrant Deal, But Costs Are High

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