Severe pressure to revamp EU asylum system

In 2016, the European Commission issued a total of seven proposals to reform the EU’s common asylum policy. The proposals seek to address the refugee crisis, which culminated in 2015, and the need to improve the management of migration to the EU. It has become evident that the existing EU regulations cannot cope adequately with the pressure created by large numbers of asylum seekers.

The most politically challenging proposal deals with reforming the Dublin system. The current system proved unable to handle the record numbers of asylum seekers in 2015. The new system needs to be able to guarantee that the same rules are followed across the EU.

Determining the country responsible for processing an asylum application must be clear-cut, and asylum seekers should be registered in the country where they first arrived. Sufficient incentives and obligations are needed to ensure that this goal is met.

It is particularly important not only to determine the responsible country but also to adopt proposals that aim to streamline and speed up the asylum procedure. Member States must have the means to weed out groundless applications and to process them quickly. The proposal for an Asylum Procedure Regulation in particular is key to achieving these goals.

By unifying decision-making and reception conditions in Member States, the EU hopes, for example, to reduce unauthorised secondary movements by asylum seekers between EU countries during the asylum process. Such movements between Member States slow down and hamper the processing of asylum applications.

Ways to manage migration in EU

All seven proposals are still under discussion in the EU institutions, and negotiations on the reform of the Dublin system and the asylum procedure have proved particularly difficult. However, progress has been made in other respects.

The deadlock can be resolved by adopting, one by one, proposals on which consensus can be reached. With its wide range of tools and strong international role, the EU is better equipped to manage migration than any Member State alone.

Discussions between Member States have focussed on return issues. An effective return policy is an essential part of a well-functioning asylum system that is fit for purpose. To cite an example, it is important to support reintegration, as this is one way to promote sustainable return and the opportunity for returnees to start a new life in the home country.

Finland bearing its share of responsibility

The EU wants the Member States to share responsibility for managing the flow of asylum seekers in order to ease the pressure caused by migration on Southern Europe. The Commission is coordinating the arrangements and calling on Member States to accept relocated asylum seekers.

The aim is to establish a temporary relocation mechanism for migrants rescued at sea. Such a mechanism could help solve challenges related to relocation within the EU, which have been tackled case by case until now.

A temporary relocation scheme was in place in 2015–2017. Finland fulfilled its commitments by accepting a total of 1,980 persons relocated from Greece and Italy. The applications of asylum seekers relocated to Finland were processed in the same way as those of other asylum seekers.

Resettlement of refugees from third countries is part of international responsibility-sharing. Finland participates in the reception of quota refugees in accordance with the national decisions made annually. Important target areas for the management of migration flows are Turkey and the route from Africa via Libya to the central Mediterranean.