EU asylum deal a “building block” to reduce influx to Netherlands, State Sec. says

The agreement reached by European Union countries on the reception, return, and distribution of asylum seekers will help Prime Minister Mark Rutte to reduce the influx of migrants to the Netherlands as he promised, said State Secretary Eric van der Burg (Asylum). But more is needed, he said after the breakthrough in the long-standing deadlock in the European asylum policy.

In the new agreement, asylum seekers from safe countries will be assessed at the European external border. Asylum seekers who have little chance of getting asylum in Europe can then be immediately detained or sent back. The agreement also assures “arrival countries” like Italy and Greece of help from other Member States. They can take in asylum seekers or buy off that obligation if they do not want to do it.

“This is a building block,” said Van der Burg. The agreement is “not a sip of a drink, but a few complete shot glasses.” That is mainly due to the new deal to immediately assess asylum seekers with little chance of being allowed to stay at the external European border, said Van der Burg. They can be detained there and eventually returned. According to the State Secretary, this will deter many people from “safe” countries like Morocco and Algeria from coming to Europe.

But a lot still needs to be done in the Netherlands and in dealings with countries of origin, Van den Burg noted. “You have to collect several building blocks. All of that added together must eventually stand like a house.” He pointed to the agreement the EU hopes to reach with Tunisia to reduce the number of people risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean from there.

The European agreement helps to relieve the pressure on Dutch asylum reception and make new agreements about the topic, said Van der Burg. If the deadlock in Europe had continued, it would have become “more difficult,” he said.

VluchtelingenWerk Nederland, the Dutch council for refugees, called it good that the EU countries have “finally” reached an agreement on asylum policy. But the aid organization wonders whether the deal will ensure a fair distribution. “Europe hereby acknowledges that the pressure on the southern countries has been far too high for years,” VulchtelingenWerk said. “At the same time, we wonder whether this migration agreement will bring those countries the relief they need.”

VluchtelingenWerk is mainly concerned about the Member States’ option to pay not to take in asylum seekers. According to the organization, the fact that any request for solidarity can easily be bought off makes it wonder “whether the agreement will really lead to a fairer distribution” of asylum seekers in Europe.

Reporting by ANP

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