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EU Lawmakers Approve Sweeping Migration Reform to Tackle Decade-Long Divide

EU lawmakers approve migration reform, obligating countries to house asylum seekers or fund their accommodation elsewhere.

European Union lawmakers have greenlit a significant overhaul of the bloc’s migration laws in a bid to quell years of discord surrounding the management of unauthorized entries and to neutralize the far-right’s electoral leverage ahead of June elections.

In a series of 10 votes, the European Parliament members endorsed the regulatory framework comprising the Pact on Migration and Asylum. These reforms confront the contentious issue of allocating responsibility for migrants upon arrival and determining whether other EU nations should be compelled to offer assistance.

The legislative process faced a momentary disruption from a vocal minority of demonstrators in the public gallery adorned with shirts bearing the slogan “this pact kills” and chanting “vote no!”

The next step requires the endorsement of the reform package by the 27 EU member states, potentially through a late April vote, for it to become effective.

Roberta Metsola, the President of the European Parliament and a former lead legislator on migration issues, hailed the occasion with a post on social media, emphasizing the culmination of over a decade of efforts to strike a balance between solidarity and responsibility.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser lauded the outcome as a significant triumph after arduous negotiations, marking the resolution of a deep-seated division within Europe regarding migration policies.

The genesis of the plan traces back to 2015 when 1.3 million individuals, predominantly fleeing conflicts in Syria and Iraq, sought refuge in Europe, straining the EU’s asylum infrastructure and prompting divergent responses among member states.

However, the reception to the reform package has been mixed, with even the lawmakers involved in its drafting expressing reservations about certain provisions.

Critics argue that the pact fails to address the core issues it was intended to resolve and could potentially undermine the right to seek asylum in Europe.

Swedish parliamentarian Malin Bjork, who worked on refugee resettlement, said that the pact does not respond to “any of the questions it was set to solve.”

She said it would build on plans that some EU countries already have to process migrants abroad. Italy has concluded one such deal with Albania. Bjork’s Left group voted against the pact.

Despite contentious measures such as biometric data collection and detention during screening, the reforms also include provisions for burden-sharing among EU nations and avenues for legal resettlement from outside the bloc.

While mainstream political parties seek to capitalize on the agreement ahead of the upcoming elections, nationalist voices, like Poland’s Law and Justice party, remain critical, calling for a fundamental rethink of EU migration policies.

The broader challenge lies in whether member states will fully implement the regulations and whether the European Commission will enforce them consistently, given its previous reluctance to exacerbate political tensions within the bloc.

Melissa Enoch

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