Who will be deported and who won’t?: The crucial five days after a refugee’s arrival

The CDU demands that refugees be sent on to Rwanda or Tunisia immediately after their arrival in Europe. But the EU wants to keep its asylum procedures on its own territory. It will take just five days to decide what will happen to the migrants.

What happens next in a refugee’s life is decided in the first five days after his or her arrival in the European Union. At least that is what the so-called screening regulation that the European Parliament is currently negotiating with the member states in the Council of the EU provides. During these five days, it will be checked whether the migrant who entered the country irregularly has any chance of receiving asylum or whether he will be accommodated in camps at the external borders for a few weeks before being deported. He should then go through the border procedure not in Rwanda or Tunisia, as some CDU politicians are demanding, but within the EU.

If an asylum procedure has little chance of success, for example because the newcomer comes from a country with an acceptance rate of less than 20 percent, he or she is sent to a reception center with prison-like conditions. He will then be refused entry, even though he has already entered EU territory. “You can imagine the legal situation like in an airport,” says Jan-Christoph Oetjen, an FDP member of the European Parliament who is helping to negotiate the screening regulation, in an interview with ntv.de. “When you arrive, you are already in the country. But you have only entered the country once you have passed passport control and your visa has been checked.” The migrants who are accommodated in the camps at the external border for a fast-track procedure and then receive a negative asylum decision are in a similar situation, said Oetjen.

This legal subtlety offers advantages when it comes to enforcing deportations. Repatriations of rejected asylum seekers repeatedly fail due to the refusal of their home countries to take back their compatriots. Since the federal government has recognized this problem, Chancellor Olaf Scholz has repeatedly announced that he wants to conclude more migration agreements with countries of origin. Such agreements already exist with many countries, both at federal and EU level. But they are not legally binding. The situation is different if a refugee is denied entry into the Schengen area due to the screening regulation. Then there is an obligation to leave the country and then be readmitted by other countries. However, the deportation is not to the country of origin, but to the transit country from which the refugee traveled to Europe, says Oetjen.

Countries of arrival could continue to wave migrants through

Whether children will also be refused entry must be clarified in the negotiations. In general, it is still unclear who will be granted protection. In its negotiating position, the European Parliament has included on the list of vulnerable people, in addition to minors, “pregnant women, older people, single parents, victims of human trafficking, seriously ill people, people with a mental disorder, people with a physical or mental disability and people who torture, rape or other severe forms of psychological, physical or sexual violence.”

During the screening, not only the chance of asylum should be checked. Migrants are also identified and subjected to a health and safety check in the states of arrival. As a result of the migration pact, these states bear more responsibility overall. They should be relieved by distributing people with the prospect of a residence permit to other EU countries. But according to current plans, they are also responsible for quick border procedures for those who have virtually no chance.

The question arises as to what the countries of arrival will do if they feel overburdened despite the new asylum rules. If, in their opinion, the solidarity promised in the new migration pact leaves something to be desired, they could go back to simply letting refugees pass through, which has often been the case so far. “That means there is currently no registration, no differentiation, the refugees are simply passed through. This has to stop. Otherwise the European Union system, which is based on trust, will not work,” says Oetjen. If countries do not adhere to the rules, the EU Commission must take action and, if necessary, initiate infringement proceedings, he adds.

“Rwanda model” raises legal questions

Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni sent a clear signal on Tuesday that she has little desire to take responsibility for border procedures. Without consulting its European partners, it signed a migration agreement with Albania to set up two reception centers for refugees intercepted in boats on the Mediterranean. The migrants should then wait for their asylum decision in the northern Albanian cities of Shengjin and Gjader. Meloni is therefore questioning the negotiations on the migration pact, which so far clearly envisages camps and border procedures within the EU.

German politicians also apparently have doubts that countries of arrival such as Italy will not continue to wave migrants through. There are therefore also calls in this country for asylum procedures to be outsourced to third countries. At the Prime Minister’s Conference on Monday, the CDU-led federal states insisted that the federal government examine external asylum procedures. The Union is also explicitly thinking about the so-called “Rwanda model”. Great Britain serves as a model, which plans to detain irregularly entered migrants regardless of their origin and without examination, in order to then fly them out to Rwanda for their asylum procedure. Denmark and Austria are also calling for such a model for the EU.

However, this idea raises all sorts of legal questions that Britain has already stumbled over. At the end of June, a British appeal court ruled that Rwanda did not offer enough security for asylum seekers. The judges concluded that the defects in the asylum system in the East African country were too great. There is a risk that asylum seekers deported to Rwanda would be sent back to their home countries, where they would face inhumane treatment. Now the highest court, the Supreme Court, should decide.

The EU Commission is sticking to the migration agreement with Tunisia

Hendrik Wüst, Prime Minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, also suggested outsourcing asylum procedures to states in North Africa. In fact, the Commission is already working on a migration agreement with Tunisia that would prevent refugee boats from leaving on its behalf. But there are problems here too. Tunisia’s President Kais Saied rejected millions in financial aid announced by the EU Commission to help the country fight irregular migration and stabilize its budget. Tunisia “does not accept anything that resembles grace or alms,” Saied said in early October.

However, that does not mean that the agreement is about to end. The commission is pushing ahead with the negotiations, as a spokesman said when asked by ntv.de. In a letter to the EU heads of state and government, which is available to ntv.de, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refers to the necessary cooperation with Tunisia and other countries to solve migration problems. Von der Leyen cites the delivery of spare parts for the Tunisian coast guard, with which “six boats are kept ready for use”, as evidence that the thread of talks after Tunis has not been broken.

The Commission continues to rely on Tunisia when it comes to intercepting refugees. But that doesn’t mean that she supports asylum procedures in third countries. She reacted with skepticism to Austria’s wish to fly asylum seekers to Rwanda. A spokeswoman for the Brussels authority explained that the asylum laws would currently only apply to asylum requests that were made on European territory and not outside of it, according to ORF.

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