Divided Europe Seeks To Overhaul Migrant Policies

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Brussels: The European Union’s executive proposed on Wednesday overhauling the bloc’s broken migration and asylum rules, seeking to end years of feuds and bitterness over the hundreds and thousands of people fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

The most contentious element would impose a legal obligation on each state to host some refugees - something eastern nations including Poland and Hungary are dead against - as well as helping in other ways under “mandatory solidarity”.

Each state would receive 10,000 euros ($11,750) per adult taken in, funded from the bloc’s budget.

Endless rows over where to locate refugees and migrants have caused bad blood between the Mediterranean-shore countries where they mainly come, the reluctant easterners, and the richer northern states where many of the new arrivals aspire to live.

The bloc was caught off guard in 2015 when more than a million people made it to EU shores, overwhelming security and welfare networks, and fomenting far-right sentiment.

“Migration is complex, the old system to deal with it in Europe no longer works,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, unveiling the new blueprint. “Moria is a stark reminder,” she added, referring to a fire that destroyed a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos this month.

The bloc’s top migration official said the 2015/16 crisis was over, with the EU now receiving some 1.5 million net new foreigners coming legally to live and work per year, compared to only 140,000 asylum seekers arriving irregularly.

“We need these people,” said Swedish EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson.

The executive European Commission’s plans to overhaul its defunct system include scratching a rule that the first EU country of arrival be responsible for asylum requests, which put too much burden on Mediterranean nations.

Under the new proposal, those arriving would be assigned to specific countries based on family links, history of education or work, or having a visa issued by a member state.

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