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Reforms to Europe’s Asylum System with Migration Being a “Fact of Life”

September 18, 2020, 07.18 PM

BRUSSELS, - EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is set to unveil a set of reforms on Europe’s asylum system next week.

The Chief Executive of the EU described immigration as a normal fact of life and stated that Europe should learn how to manage it.

In a major policy speech to the European Parliament that drew applause and the occasional heckle, Ursula von der Leyen said immigration policy must recognize "that each human being has a solemn dignity".

Migration policies have triggered quarrels within the EU since 2015 when more than a million people reached Europe by sea and thousands died trying.

Read also: Migrant Rescues in the Mediterranean Sea to Resume in August

The numbers of those arriving have fallen sharply since then, but EU members are still divided over how to share the responsibility of hosting them, and far-right parties have gained votes across the bloc calling for a harder line.

"Migration has always been a fact for Europe — and it will always be," von der Leyen said. "This is normality. We should be and we have to be able to manage that."

At one point in her speech, she was interrupted by a right-wing German lawmaker, as she accused "the extreme right" of "preaching hate" on the immigration issue.

"But hate has never given any good advice," von der Leyen said.

Von der Leyen, whose family has helped a Syrian refugee start a new life in Germany, said some 2 million people come to live in Europe legally each year, while last year just 140,000 people sought asylum.

Read also: Danes Appoint Envoy as Europe’s Asylum System Braces for Reform

UN data shows 124,000 people made it to the bloc across the Mediterranean last year and 1,319 died at sea, numbers that have fallen each year since 2015.

Southern EU states where migrants arrive, such as Greece, Italy and Malta, have demanded help.

Wealthy northern countries where many head after their arrival, such as Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, want an approach that would see asylum seekers distributed across the bloc.

But Eastern states led by Poland and Hungary refuse to host any.


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