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EU agreement on migrants welcomed by minister

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After three years of intense negotiations agreement has been reached for the creation of an EU solidarity mechanism on asylum seekers, Interior Minister Konstantinos Ioannou, announced late on Thursday on Twitter.

“We reached an important agreement regarding the first essential step for border procedures and the creation of a solidarity mechanism [which has been] a constant request of the Republic of Cyprus and other frontline states that are under intense immigration pressure,” the minister tweeted.

The minister’s announcement came at the end of day-long negotiations in Luxembourg by the EU council of justice and home affairs.

The two pieces of legislation agreed upon are part of the new pact on migration and asylum and pave the way for negotiations in the EU Parliament.

Ministers discussed the safeguarding of legal migration channels as well as relations with third countries.

The institution of the mandatory solidarity mechanism towards frontline states – so far done on a voluntary basis – is seen as a major breakthrough by the Republic.

The present arrangements include provision for re-allocation of third-country nationals to other member states, based on numbers to be drawn up by the European Commission, or, alternatively, the provision of financial and logistical support.

In his address to the council, the minister highlighted the escalating difficulties Cyprus has faced over the past six years stemming from the systematic promotion of migration flows from Turkey through the green line.

The minister recalled that Cyprus awaits the completion of the action plan for the Eastern Mediterranean to address the issue.

Cyprus is willing to be flexible but significant concessions have been made, Ioannou told attendees. The minister pointed out that the requirement to ensure in advance the possibility for return of irregular migrants, or having to determine ties to the country of origin, lengthens processing time and asked for this to be reconsidered.

Ioannou also underlined that rapid satisfaction of requests for support from the EU by member states facing excessive pressures, should be facilitated based on the needs identified by that member state, including re-allocation of asylum seekers as a form of practical solidarity.

Regarding suspension of border procedures in response to increased migratory pressures, it is important that such an intention could be communicated to the EU Commission without complicated procedures that would render swift response ineffective, the minister said, a position which was shared by other member states.

The regulations agreed upon are seen as a delicate balance between responsibility and solidarity.

They are expected to simplify the asylum seeker process, making it more efficient while including adequate safeguards for applicants and envisage a fast and fair process with quick rejection of those likely to be ineligible for protection, without burdening frontline states.

As regards the proposed solidarity mechanism, member states will be able to decide how to contribute, choosing from a number of equally valuable options, thus maintaining flexibility and respecting for member states’ differing needs.

A timetable for the completion of the process has been set with a February 2024 deadline, before the next European elections.

Swedish Minister of Migration and Asylum Maria Malmer Stenergard said that the agreement will improve on the Dublin Regulation and define the responsibilities of each member state while preventing abuse and limiting secondary movement of migrants from one member state to another.

“The solidarity mechanism we have created will support those member states most exposed to migratory pressures,” Malmer Stenergard said.

The 27 member states reached agreement after a vote, in which Hungary and Poland opposed the draft, while the Czech Republic, Malta, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Lithuania abstained.

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