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EU’s long-standing migration rule ‘unsustainable’, says Germany

Sigmar_Gabriel_(2013)Germany’s vice-chancellor and foreign minister slammed one of the cornerstones of EU migration policy as “unsustainable” in comments published Thursday, jointly saying Europeans owed it “to the world” to help migrants and refugees.

Europe’s largest economy has gone on the offensive in recent days to push for a joint EU response to the biggest migration crisis to hit the continent since World War II, as it prepares to host a record 800,000 asylum-seekers this year.

“Never before have so many people fled political persecution and war as today. Many of them are seeking refuge here with us in Europe,” Vice-Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in the French daily Le Figaro.

“In view of the crises in our neighbourhood, we must assume that this could remain the case for years,” they added in a comment piece also published in Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper.

Germany announced this week that it would stop returning Syrian asylum-seekers to their first EU port of entry, as stipulated under the so-called Dublin Regulation that governs migration in the European Union.

Under the regulation, the first EU country where an asylum-seeker arrives is usually required to process the claimant’s application, and if they move somewhere else, they can be returned to that first nation.

In practice, this means countries on the EU’s borders like Greece or Italy are overwhelmed with applications as thousands arrive on their shores after a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.

“German citizens are helping to receive and integrate refugees into our society as never before,” Gabriel and Steinmeier wrote.

But “a state of affairs in which only a handful of member states shoulder the entire burden — as happens today — is just as unsustainable as a system which forces the countries on the EU’s outer border to take the strain alone.

“We must therefore reform the Dublin Convention immediately, and find a way of creating binding and objective refugee quotas which take into account the ability of all member states to bear them.”

They said the EU response had not met “the standards that Europe must set for itself.”

“We must guarantee a common European code of asylum, so that asylum status is valid throughout the EU and the conditions for receiving it are stable across member states.”

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