Government expresses position on comprehensive reform of EU migration and asylum policy
The European Commission issued a comprehensive communication on the reform of migration and asylum policy on 23 September. The communication was accompanied by five legislative proposals. The Government expressed its position on the Commission's proposals in its communications submitted to Parliament on 12 November.
With these legislative proposals, the Commission intends to give a fresh start to the reform of the Common European Asylum System. Three of the proposals are new and two of them will amend the proposals submitted in 2016. Some of the proposals put forward by the previous Commission remain unchanged as a basis for further negotiations, and work will continue building on the agreement already reached.
The premise of the Government's policy guidelines is to safeguard fundamental and human rights, including legal protection, in all situations. In particular, the Government emphasises the realisation of the rights of children and other vulnerable persons.
Preliminary screening of migrants at the external Schengen borders
The Commission proposes a new Regulation on screening at the external Schengen borders. This would create uniform rules for the handling of irregular migrants. The screening would be a data collection phase that would establish the person's identity, register the person in the database and ensure that the person does not pose a threat to internal security or public health. After the screening, applicants for international protection would be referred to the asylum process and the others would be returned to the country of origin or transit.
The Government supports the strengthening of external border control and considers that, when correctly implemented, the screening process would contribute to this objective. The Government welcomes the fact that the Commission's proposal would create common EU-wide practices for the processing and registration of persons who have entered the Schengen area without authorisation. The introduction of screening requires that the fundamental rights of individuals and the protection of privacy are strictly safeguarded. It is also important that the realisation of fundamental and human rights is monitored by an independent party.
In the border procedure, decisions on applications would be made swiftly in the vicinity of the border
The amended proposal for a Regulation on a common asylum procedure aims to ensure an efficient and fair processing of asylum applications. As a major change to the previous proposal, the Commission proposes that Member States examine an applicant's asylum application during the border procedure when the applicant comes from a country of origin whose citizens have, on average, a low recognition rate in the asylum procedure in the Member States. During the border procedure, applicants would remain close to the border.
Effective examination of applications, prevention of unfounded applications and rapid referral of those who have received a negative decision to the return process would also make it possible to grant protection to those who need it quickly. The Government considers it important that there will be an individual assessment of the grounds for an application in all asylum procedures and that the legal protection of applicants will be ensured in the processing.
We need further clarification of the legal grounds for and conditions of the border procedure at EU level. The Government has certain reservations about the Commission's proposal to limit appeal only to a court of first instance in the border procedure.
Individual Member States would be responsible for examining asylum applications – Member States would support one another through solidarity measures
The Regulation on migration management proposed by the Commission would nominally replace the old Dublin system. However, it would not undermine the basic principle that individual Member States are responsible for examining asylum applications and that the responsibility is determined on pre-agreed grounds. The proposed Regulation would create a common management framework based, for example on annual situational reports by the Commission. The aim is for asylum seekers to have swift access to the asylum procedure in the Member State responsible for examining the application.
In addition, the proposal would create a solidarity mechanism binding on EU Member States, which would, in situations of migratory pressure, shift the responsibility for applicants onto other Member States in addition to those located at the external borders. The solidarity mechanism would also respond to the situation of asylum seekers disembarked in the country following search and rescue operations: the aim is to create a permanent arrangement instead of dealing with such situations on a case-by-case basis. In the Commission proposal, alternative support measures include, in particular, participation in the relocation of asylum seekers or providing support for return.
The Government supports the premise that the EU's migration and asylum policy is based on long-term strategy work. It is also important that a permanent solidarity mechanism that is binding on all Member States be established in the EU. The Government will carefully examine the possibility of also providing support for returns in a manner that respects fundamental and human rights. However, to enable an effective operation of the system it is important that Member States participate extensively in relocations.
In situations of crisis, solidarity measures would be launched quickly and time limits for procedures would be more flexible
The proposal for a Regulation on measures in situations of crisis and force majeure covers exceptional situations where a mass influx of migrants could paralyse the asylum, reception and return systems of a Member State and also affect the Union's asylum system. In situations of crisis, solidarity measures would be triggered rapidly and Member States would have flexibility with regard to certain time limits for procedures.
According to the Government, the Commission's proposal for a new crisis mechanism is justified and necessary. The system should be binding on all Member States, and a wide set of tools should be available to demonstrate solidarity. Member States should also be able to decide, in accordance with pre-agreed framework conditions, what kind of support measures they are prepared to commit themselves to. Deviations from normal procedures must be predictable, justified and strictly limited.
The Eurodac system would support the formation of situation awareness
The amended proposal for a Regulation on the Eurodac system would make Eurodac a modern migration management database that would make it possible to obtain a better picture of the situation with regard to migration as a basis for a common policy. The reform would, in particular, enable obtaining statistics on the number of asylum seekers.
The Government considers the proposed amendment important. Information systems must be developed so that they support, for example the application of asylum and return provisions and the examination of the conditions for entry and stay.
Finland is ready for discussions seeking compromises
In October, the Government adopted general guidelines on Finland's position to the reform. According to these guidelines, Finland is committed to common European solutions for the development of migration and asylum policy, and is ready for open and flexible discussions seeking compromises on the basis of the Commission proposals. The Government's guidelines on the Regulations will support active and constructive participation in the discussions.
Germany, the current Presidency of the Council of the European Union, seeks political agreement between the EU Member States on the key issues of the reform. At ministerial level, the next discussion will take place at the informal meeting of the home affairs ministers on Friday 13 November.
Tomi Tirkkonen, Border Management Specialist, tel. +358 295 421 134, [email protected] (screening)
Sanna Montin, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 314, [email protected] (border procedure)
Kukka Krüger, Chief Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 270, [email protected] (solidarity, Eurodac)
Satu Kaskinen, Senior Specialist, tel. +358 295 488 680, [email protected] (situations of crisis and force majeure)
Katri Niskanen, Ministerial Adviser, tel. +358 295 488 672, [email protected] (Commission communication)