BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders meet on Wednesday, hoping to rally behind common responses to the migration crisis. Following are policies that the EU and its executive arm, the European Commission, are pursuing.
Following the drowning of some 800 people on a single boat off Libya in April, the EU effectively reversed a sharp cutback in warships conducting search and rescue operations; since June, a naval operation has been targeting people-smugglers. Plans to roam far into Libyan waters are on hold, seeking U.N. support.
The Commission on Wednesday said it would step up funding for the coordination agency Frontex and propose by December steps to establish a European Border and Coast Guard. At present each state manages its own section of the external EU border.
The EU has paid for food, medicine, shelter and other needs for migrants in countries which have asked for it. Some 73 million euros ($82 million) in emergency short-term funding have been allocated. Italy and Greece will get nearly half of 2.4 billion euros help with the crisis over several years.
Governments have agreed two schemes to relocate a total of 160,000 asylum-seekers over two years from Italy and Greece. The first, for 40,000 people, is voluntary as leaders objected in June to a Commission proposal of binding quotas. The second, for 120,000, involves mandatory national quotas and was agreed on Tuesday over fierce objections from four eastern states. Mainly Syrians, Eritreans and Iraqis will qualify to have their asylum claims processed in other EU states. Normally, under the Dublin rules, the first EU state entered must handle the claimants.
Once asylum seekers are relocated they have no right to move within Europe’s Schengen borderless zone, though critics of the scheme say that may prove unworkable, with many keen to reach the likes of Germany and Sweden, the most popular destinations.
The Commission will propose a permanent emergency relocation mechanism and review the Dublin asylum system next year.
States pledged to resettle 22,000 Syrian refugees directly from the Middle East over the next two years. The Commission will propose a permanent system in the coming months to help U.N. agencies resettle some of the 4 million Syrian refugees.
Britain, the bloc’s second-biggest economy, is exempt from EU asylum policies but has said it will take in 20,000 Syrians direct from the Middle East over the next five years.
Accompanying the relocation system, EU agencies will staff “hotspots” to identify and fingerprint migrants. The Commission wants Italy, Greece and states that contribute staff to ensure these are in place in the coming weeks. Northern states complain failure to register arrivals has broken EU rules and let many travel over Schengen borders to claim asylum in northern Europe.
Hungary, which set up its own “transit zones” on the border with non-EU Serbia which it has lined with fencing, has rejected such help -- a key part of EU proposals to toughen up and accelerate a process of distinguishing refugees from economic migrants and speed the removal of the latter.
Economic migrants whose claims for refugee status fail will be returned home more quickly. The EU is working with countries to ensure they take more people back. The Commission proposes a shared EU list of seven “safe” states, notably the west Balkan states of Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Turkey. Their citizens are likely to face a “fast-track” deportation if they claim asylum in the EU.
The EU will use its development aid budget to reduce poverty and other factors that drive migration, to encourage governments to curb people-smuggling gangs and dissuade their citizens from migrating, and to cooperate with EU deportation procedures.
The Commission plans a 1.8-billion euro trust fund for Africa and asked member states to match that cash. There will be a summit with the African Union on Malta on Nov. 11-12 and a ministerial meeting with Balkan states on Oct. 8.
A trust fund for Syrian refugees is targeted to reach 1 billion euros, half from the EU budget and half from EU states.
The EU wants to provide 1 billion euros for Turkey next year to help Syrian refugees, about two thirds from existing funds meant for Ankara, and member states to offer 1 billion more.
Officials have steered away from suggestions the EU should set up facilities to process asylum applications in Africa or the Middle East. Among other things, some say they could be vulnerable to attack and hard to manage. However, EU embassies are to have immigration officers to monitor migration trends.
The EU is working with international agencies in Niger to inform migrants about to head for Libya of the risks they will run and their low chances of being allowed to settle in Europe.
The EU executive is reviewing schemes to issue EU visas to skilled workers as among the safe routes for immigration. It plans to bring new proposals in early 2016.