EU: Seven member states call for mandatory relocation in revamped asylum system


Seven EU member states are in favour of a mandatory relocation procedure as part of a revamped 'Common European Asylum System', according to two recent documents obtained by Statewatch - the first, a letter to the European Commission from the Italian, Spanish, French and German governments and the second, a 'non-paper' drafted by Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Spain and Malta.

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Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta: Non-paper on the reform of the Common European Asylum System in the perspective of an EU migration and asylum policy (pdf)

Italy, Spain, France, Germany: Letter to Commissioners Schinas and Johannson (pdf)

Mandatory relocation

The letter to the Commission, dated 9 April, calls for:

"a fair sharing of responsibility and a reform that must create a binding mechanism for fair distribution according to specific criteria, in particular when a member state is under disproportionate pressure. Member States resorting to other measures of solidarity than relocation must remain an exception, only for motivated reason."

In the same vein, the non-paper calls for "a mandatory system providing for a fair and rapid distribution of asylum seekers arriving irregularly to the EU among Member States, in compliance with Articles 78 and 80 TFEU."

It also suggests that in cases where an individual seeking protection has no family or other links to a particular member state, a "complementary distribution mechanism based on an automated central system (DAS) should be established."

Such a system would compare "registration data on asylum applications with a fair share for each MS calculated on objective and predefined criteria, including GDP, GDP per capita, population and territory and accordingly allocating applicants in a random way."

According to Politico (link), the reference to "measures of solidarity other than relocation" has been seen by diplomats as "an olive branch to Central and Eastern European countries such as Poland and Hungary, which have resisted any new rules that would force them to take in refugees arriving on Europe's southern shores."

Secondary movements

Both documents also call for new measures to tackle "secondary movements" - that is, the unauthorised movement of individuals from one member state to another.

According to the letter, there should be "various countermeasures" to deal with secondary movements, although it only makes one suggestion - that "reception services for asylum seekers should be provided exclusively by the responsible member state."

The non-paper underlines that "the issue of secondary movement is more complex than what it appears," arguing that:

"…the Schengen and Dublin acquis must remain distinct; besides making full use of existing instruments and policies to tackle secondary movements (cross-border cooperation, use of technology, border information and control systems), the overhaul of the asylum system will in itself contribute to contrast such movements... Reintroduction of internal border controls must revert to an extraordinary, proportionated and limited in time last resource. The image of traditional controls in our internal borders makes us go back decades in the European Project and could jeopardize trust among MS. In order to reinforce security in our territory, less coercive and more efficient measures are possible."

Search and rescue and border procedures

The two documents both also mention search and rescue at sea. The letter calls for a "Search and Rescue Solidarity Mechanism," but offers no further details. The non-paper says that those rescued at sea should not be treated:

"in the same way as other irregular entries… they are brought to the EU in compliance with international law and are not a result of inefficiencies in border controls. Consequently, their distribution should proceed in parallel to the general allocation mechanism, in the light of their specific legal status."

It is clear that the two groups of governments would both favour a harsher approach to asylum procedures, with the non-paper calling for "one-level appeals" with "short timeframes setting aside suspensive effect," and the letter demanding an "updated and extended catalogue of clauses for declaring the inadmission of applications".

This latter point is made in the context of a call for 'border procedures':

"Mandatory pre-screening (registration, security and medical checks, identification) is an essential part of the procedures. Applicants who are clearly not entitled to protection must not be allowed to remain in the European Union. The European asylum agency may assist member states in the aforementioned procedures as needed."

The letter, on the other hand, makes no mention of border procedures - although a previous German non-paper (pdf) argued strongly in favour of them - and it is precisely this point over which negotiations on the Asylum Procedures Regulation have hit a brick wall in the past, with "frontline" member states standing in opposition.

Hungary, on the other hand, has previously argued that "the entire asylum procedure should take place at the border, only those granted protection should be allowed in the EU."

Cooperation with non-EU states

The four-state letter also makes no mention of cooperation with non-EU states to control mgiration, something on which the non-paper is very keen:

"…it is essential to strengthen cooperation with African and Asian countries of origin and transit of migration flows with a view to fight irregular migration, also by preserving successful bilateral relations between EUMS and those countries. For example, North Africa and the Sahel region as well as the Silk Route countries need structured interventions, also in terms of capacity-building measures, in coordination with the various United Nations organizations operating on the field, such as the International Organization for Migration and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Among that overall cooperation, it is key to consolidate collaboration on border control, fight against human smuggling and SAR with coastal countries of last departure. That has proven to be the most effective way to prevent irregular flows, based on a tailor-made approach, depending on the needs of every third country."


Cyprus, Greece, Spain, Italy, Malta: Non-paper on the reform of the Common European Asylum System in the perspective of an EU migration and asylum policy (pdf)

Italy, Spain, France, Germany: Letter to Commissioners Schinas and Johannson (pdf)

Further reading

Yasha Maccanico, Anti-migration cooperation between the EU, Italy and Libya: some truths, Statewatch Analysis, March 2020 (pdf)

German non-paper, Outline for reorienting the Common European Asylum System, 13 November 2019 (pdf)

Common European Asylum System: deadlock in the Council as "frontline" Member States oppose mandatory "border procedures", Statewatch News, April 2019

Jane Kilpatrick, Spain-Morocco: "Migration control, not rescue": squeezing search and rescue in the Mediterranean, Statewatch Analysis, September 2019 (pdf)


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