No common EU asylum policy, even through German EU Council Presidency

By Salwa Saada and Michael Seifert

In July 2020, Germany took over the EU Council Presidency and thus the chairmanship of the EU negotiations at ministerial level. Right at the beginning, the Federal Minister of the Interior formulated the most important goals in refugee policy: reforming the European asylum system by means of a common asylum policy, creating EU centres for the reception of refugees in the countries of arrival with external borders and rapid examination of applications there, binding distribution quota to all EU countries.

The corona-crisis and the consequently closed borders prevented all negotiations on the implementation of these goals.

When the Moria reception centre on the Greek island of Lesbos burnt down in September 2020, the need for action became acute. A “migration package” was introduced by the EU Commission.

Instead of accepting refugees according to fixed quotas, financial incentives for admission were to be created, such as 10.000 euros per refugee admitted. States that are not willing to take in refugees should take on so-called “deportation sponsorships”. This means taking care of the repatriation of rejected asylum seekers. This way, the EU Commission wanted to put an end to the dispute among the member states that had lasted for years.

There was no agreement on these compromises either. The same states that had already rejected the distribution of refugees before, such as Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, continued to be against it, Austria joined in as well.

Further meetings of the EU interior ministers also failed to produce any results. The core idea and many details of the offer remain controversial. A joint fight against terrorism was given higher priority in the meeting. The responsible EU Commissioner Ylva Johansson stated resignedly:

“This will continue to occupy the next, the Portuguese Presidency.” Portugal takes over the presidency on January 1stfor six months. The right to asylum should be protected in the EU at all costs, Seehofer and Johansson said. A Fortress Europe is not wanted. Corresponding criticism from refugee organisations was wrong.

However, the problem of the many thousands of refugees on the Greek islands remained completely unresolved. Some countries, such as Germany and France, declared their willingness to at least take in teenagers who had fled and were ill. We wanted to know what had come of it in Germany and asked Heike Hänsel, a member of the Bundestag for Tübingen, who submitted a written question to the parliament.

The answer of the Federal Government states that in September, Germany agreed to take in 150 unaccompanied minors from Moria and other camps and 1.553 other recognised refugees in families. Of these, 826 have entered Germany as by December 3rd. In March, the Federal Government had already promised to take in about 1,000 persons. Of the total of 2.750 persons promised, only 1.291 have been admitted to Germany since April 2020.

This insufficient result contradicts with the keyword “safe harbouring” which means 214 German cities and municipalities who have declared willingness to take in refugees from EU states with external borders, including Rottenburg and Tübingen. The failure to achieve the goal of a common EU asylum policy has ultimately led to this commitment and the potential of the German municipalities not coming to accomplishments. The lack of solidarity within the EU thus prevents the implementation of Article 3 of the UN Human Rights Charter, which reads: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” The human right to asylum is consequently suspended by the disunity within the EU.


In Strasburg ist der Sitz des Europaparlaments. Foto: Wolfgang Sannwald, 2018

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