EU warns members over violations of asylum rules
The European Commission has warned 19 member states of the European Union against failure to implement rules on handling the issue of asylum seekers flooding Europe.
European Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans issued the warning as EU leaders gathered in Brussels for an emergency summit on the refugee crisis on Wednesday.
“It is about time that member states stepped up to the plate and did what they need to do,” Timmermans said, adding that a common asylum system only works when every country respects the rules.
The 28-member European Union has already established rules governing the handling of asylum seekers in Europe, but a huge influx of refugees from the Middle East and Africa over the past several months has strained it to the limit.
Timmermans, meanwhile, added that the European Commission has launched 40 infringement procedures, in addition to the 35 already in place.
The 40 infringement procedures are mostly about those member states that did not let Brussels know how they have transposed the EU asylum rules into their national law.
So far, several member states have closed their borders or suspended crossing points to stop the refugee influx, in a move that has violated rules of the passport-free Schengen zone.
Regaining control of ‘external borders’
Donald Tusk, head of the European Council, has called on member states to put aside differences over a refugee quota deal and secure the EU borders.
“The most urgent question we should ask ourselves tonight is how to regain control of our external borders,” Tusk told the emergency summit, adding, “The conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, will not end anytime soon. This means today we’re talking about millions of potential refugees trying to reach Europe, not thousands.”
On Tuesday, interior ministers of the European Union adopted by majority a resolution to distribute some 120,000 refugees among the member states, a decision which irked some Central and Eastern European nations, namely the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, which oppose the mandatory quotas in sharing the refugee exodus.
According to estimates by the UN refugee agency, the crisis has seen over 477,900 people stream into Europe from the Middle East, Africa and Asia.