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Fact-check: Did the Commission propose mandatory relocation of migrants?

(this post has been updated the 10th of April in order to grant the right of reply and contribute to a more comprehensive analysis)

Oops! They did it again. MEPs from the Five Stars Movement (M5S) once again substituted the truth with their own fabrications. Despite all the initiatives taken at EU level to tackle the myths on migration, there is still someone who wants to impose another narrative. This time it was Laura Ferrara, who produced a press release where she complains from what she says is the failure of the European Commission in dealing with immigrants and their management.

“The European Commission, which holds the power of legislative initiative, has to take its own responsibilities”, she stressed. “During these years it should have been able to submit a serious proposal to amend the Dublin Regulation, with the aim of establishing a mechanism for mandatory and automatic distribution of asylum seekers among member states”.

Let’s keep in mind this remarks and let’s see whether the M5S propaganda fits with reality. Migration has always been a powerful instrument of electoral campaigns, and we currently are in open electoral campaign. The European elections are getting closer, so it matters what politicians say. They can influence voters and, as a consequence, the outcome of the vote.

Automatic solutions proposed already in 2016

So, Laura Ferrara regrets that no automatic mechanisms of redistribution were proposed. Well, the truth begs to differ. In 2016 the European Commission published a draft regulation whose aim was to reform the common asylum system (the so-called Dublin regulation). In its proposal the executive body of the EU proposed the introduction of “a corrective relocation mechanism”. According to the draft, “this mechanism would be activated automatically in cases where Member States would have to deal with a disproportionate number of asylum seekers”.

So, an automatic mechanism was proposed. It has to be recalled that when the proposal went to the European Parliament, the MEPs from M5S voted against. They considered the proposal too soft. They wanted a permanent mechanism instead of an emergency scheme such as the one proposed by the Commission. In Laura Ferrara’s press release the story is not explained properly. Thus the result is an alternative version of the facts. She said no automatic mechanism was proposed, but it was.

Mandatory relocation on the table

Ferrara stated that no mandatory schemes where proposed by the European Commission in order to update the Dublin regulation. Indeed, the word “mandatory” doesn’t exist in the proposal put forward in 2016. But this word, as well as the clear reference, was in the 2015 proposal. So, once again, the truth is not the one claimed by the Movement. A proposal for compulsory relocation was put on the table, but EU member states rejected it.

The problem was and still is political. Governments didn’t want to officially host migrants, because of the fear to lose popular support. The European Commission tried twice to change the Dublin regulation. The first time was in 2015. At that time the migration crisis reached its peak, and the Juncker commission decided that something special was needed. So they produced a proposal of reform of the Dublin regulation.

“The proposal establishes, for well prescribed crisis circumstances, a mandatory distribution key for determining the responsibility for examining applications”. This is what the 2015 proposal stated. Members states opposed since the beginning the idea of migrant quotas. Slovakia appealed to the European Court of justice. And the European Commission had to change its line.

In the second proposal, the one of 2016, the term “mandatory” doesn’t appear. But this normal. Politically speaking, how could the European Commission propose a new permanent mandatory relocations scheme when the previous temporary version was rejected?

The Five Stars are disappointed because no mandatory distributions schemes have been proposed. The truth is another: the scheme was proposed but it was rejected.

Commission and Parliament took responsibilities. So did States?

According to Ferrara the Commission didn’t take its own responsibilities. We saw the European institution tried to do so, but the Council stopped everything. The European Parliament backed the Commission proposal in November 2017, by saying that “all EU countries should accept their fair share of responsibility for hosting asylum seekers”. So, that shows that the Europe of Nations doesn’t work. National interest made impossible to go further.

In the Parliament the Five Stars voted against the proposal of the Commission. It was considered as ineffective. Points of view are personal and have to be taken into account, even when don’t share. So, Ferrara and friends have the right to complain and to reject the proposal if they consider it a wrong or bad text. What they cannot do is to substitute the truth with partial and incorrect version of the story.

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Member of the European Parliament Laura Ferrara, asked Gimme5EU the possibility to reply to the our fact-check. She considered that clarifications to this post were needed.

We thank both Laura Ferrara and the Movement for reading us and paying attention to our work. We are glad to have them among our readers, and we really appreciate the fact they wanted to inter-act and participate on the debate. Here below Laura Ferrara’s reply.

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The truth on the automatic mandatory relocation mechanism proposed by the Commission in the proposal to reform the so called “Dublin regulation“.
On the automatic nature of the instrument It is true that according the Commission proposal, the corrective relocation mechanism would be activated automatically but only in cases where Member States would have to deal with a disproportionate number of asylum seekers. In Article 34 of the proposal to reform the Dublin regulation, the Commission also defines what “disproportionate pressure” means: “the corrective allocation for the benefit of a Member State is triggered automatically where the number of applications for international protection for which a Member State is responsible exceeds 150% of the figure identified in the reference key”.

This is far from being an automatic relocation mechanism. The 150% threshold set by the Commission has been highly criticized both by frontline Member States and MEPs in Parliament as in practice means that the allocation mechanism is triggered when the asylum system of the Member State concerned is already collapsing. Before being able to trigger the “automatic” relocation mechanism, a Member State would have to be confronted with an inflow of asylum seekers resulting in numbers of applications for international protection even higher than the situation experienced during the refugees’ emergency of 2016. This proposal is simply not enough and not beneficial to alleviate the migratory pressure on frontline Member States.

A real permanent automatic relocation mechanism would mean that when a disembarkation on the territory of a Member State occurs, asylum seekers are immediately relocated to another Member State to have their asylum claim analyzed there.

On the mandatory nature of the instrument
The mechanism proposed cannot be defined mandatory because according to the Commission proposal (both the 2015 one mentioned in the article and the 2016 on Dublin), a Member State could opt-out from the solidarity obligations simply by buying out its participation. In both legislative proposals mentioned in the article this possibility was clearly spelled out and the Commission set in 250.000 € the price for every asylum seekers who is not relocated.

According to Article 37 on the “financial solidarity” of the proposal to reform the Dublin regulation, a Member State can decide that “it will temporarily not take part in the corrective allocation mechanism”. As a result, “that Member State shall thereafter make a solidarity contribution of EUR 250,000 per each applicant who would have otherwise been allocated to that Member State during the respective twelve-month period. The solidarity contribution shall be paid to the Member State determined as responsible for examining the respective applications.”

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