The European Pact on Immigration and Asylum: towards a more securitarian approach

Updated: Sep 7, 2021

by Luigi Limone

1. 1. Introduction

On 23 September, the European Commission presented the new European Pact on Immigration and Asylum, a package of 12 documents, including several legislative proposals that will now be negotiated by the European Parliament and the Member States of the European Union (EU).The new Pact aims to break the deadlock on the reform of European asylum and immigration rules, already outlined within the April 2015 European Agenda on Migration, by seeking a balance between the perspectives of the different EU member states. Regarding most of the legislative proposals, including those on reception conditions, on conditions to qualify for asylum or beneficiary of international protection and on resettlement mechanism, the Commission invited the EU Council and the Parliament to resume the negotiations interrupted in the past years.

Furthermore, three new proposals were presented in the new Pact, focusing respectively on (i) a mandatory border screening or verification mechanism; (ii) new and faster asylum procedures at the borders followed, where appropriate, by an accelerated return procedure; (iii) the strengthening of conditionality between cooperation on readmission with third countries and the issuance of visas to their nationals.

The aim of these proposals is to reinforce the Union's borders and increasingly externalize the management and control of migration flows in third countries, consolidating the so-called "Fortress Europe" approach and further limitingrespect for the human rights of refugees and migrants.

2. The proposalestablishing an entry screening system

A first instrument that plays a key role in consolidating the trend towards externalization is the proposal for a Regulation introducing a mechanism for screening at the external borders of the Union, applicable to third-country nationals crossing the external borders without authorization. Screening will have to include identification procedures, health and security checks, fingerprinting as well as registration in the Eurodac database. [1]

As stated in the new Pact on Immigration and Asylum, thepurpose of screening is to speed up the process of determining the status of the third-country national and the type of procedure to be applied. More precisely, screening should help to ensure that the concerned third-country national is referred to the appropriate procedures as soon as possible, while also limiting possibility for absconding after entering the territory of the EU and trying to reach a Member State other than the one of arrival (the so-called "secondary movements"). Under the new concept, the screening procedure thus becomes the standard for all third-country nationals who irregularly crossthe borders of the Union, as well as for migrants and asylum seekers who are disembarked in a European port as a result of a search and rescue (SAR) operation at sea and for those seeking international protection at external border crossing points or in transit zones.

3. Accelerated asylum procedures at borders and returns

Another crucial element in the process of consolidating the "Fortress Europe" approach is the acceleration and streamlining of border procedures and the creation of a seamless link between the asylum procedure and return. The new Pact provided for the adoption of a new Regulation on asylum procedures, with the aim of promoting a reform of border procedures, establishing a link between the border procedure for asylum and return and introducing an accelerated procedure which, alongside the normal asylum procedure, is activated immediately after the screening phase and becomes mandatory for asylum seekers who arrive at the external EU border irregularly or following a landing operation and who:

(i) pose a risk to national security or public order;

(ii) have provided false information and/or documents or omitted relevant information and/or documents;

(iii) come from a third country for which the share of positive decisions in the total number of asylu