Proposed new asylum rules elicit swift negative response from Prague

Photo: CAFOD, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Amidst a deepening refugee crisis in Europe, the EC on Wednesday proposed new common asylum rules that would replace the so-called Dublin Regulation, under which people must claim asylum in the first EU state they enter. The two options proposed both envisage an automatic redistribution of migrants which the Czech Republic has consistently rejected.

Photo: CAFOD,  CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The first EC option presented would introduce a "corrective fairness mechanism" that would relocate asylum seekers from frontline states to elsewhere in the bloc — a method now being employed on an ad hoc basis; the second would ignore where people arrive in the EU and send them around the bloc according to a "permanent distribution key." In both cases, asylum-seekers would be automatically redistributed between member states, something that Prague has consistently rejected. The Commission also proposed a more centralized asylum process within EU institutions, rather than basing it on national laws.

This drew a swift negative response from Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka who described the proposal as “absolutely unacceptable” for the Czech government, saying that Prague was against permanent redistribution quotas on principle and stressing that asylum policy must remain under the control of individual member states. Interior Minister Milan Chovanec pointed out that EU quotas quite obviously do not work –as is evident from the case of a group of Iraqi refugees who relocated to the Czech Republic of their own choice, were granted asylum in the country and within weeks left for Germany.

Milan Chovanec,  photo: Czech Television
"This is an attempt at social engineering that simply cannot work. You cannot distribute people around Europe by force. If we cannot keep those who came of their own free will, how will we be able to keep the others here?"

Czech MEP Jiří Pospíšil described the proposal as “sci-fi” pointing to the fact that out of 160,000 refugees the EU had only managed to agree on the redistribution of 1,000, while Finance Minister Andrej Babiš suggested that since the EC kept reviving its “nonsensical” proposals it may be time to follow the example of Slovakia and Hungary and take the mandatory quotas issue to court.

These sentiments are echoed by the right-wing opposition parties which have described the proposal as another EC attempt to undermine the sovereignty of individual EU member states. They moreover warn that attempts to enforce such far reaching changes will only fuel anti-EU sentiments around the block.