Under Dublin Regulation, UK allowed to return migrants to ‘point of entry’ and it has sent back 12,000 people under the scheme since 2003
- But Brussels officials now plan to link deportation scheme to refugee quota
- Britain will ‘strongly’ resist any change, senior cabinet minister warns
- Meanwhile, Austria demands a cap on how many refugees it takes this year
- Thousands of people are travelling through icy weather to reach Europe
A spokesman for David Cameron, pictured leaving Downing Street today, has insisted no formal proposals have been tabled
The UK will ‘strongly’ protest changes to EU migration rules that mean asylum seekers have to make a claim to stay in the first country they arrive in.
Under the so-called Dublin Convention, refugees have to claim asylum in the country they first enter and they can be returned there under EU rules.
But bureaucrats are set to try and push a change on Britain as David Cameron attempts to complete his renegotiation on Britain’s membership of the EU next month.
The ultimatum from Brussels is expected to include a new push for Britain to take tens of thousands of migrants as part of a quota system in return for the right to deport people who reach the UK to claim asylum after travelling through several other countries.
It could throw the Prime Minister’s renegotiation of Britain’s EU membership into turmoil ahead of the referendum.
Reforms to the Dublin protocols had been due for debate on March and today a No 10 spokesman today insisted no proposal had been put to Britain so far.
At a briefing with journalists, International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: ‘Yes, we would be concerned and strongly against any change against on initial country status that we have got right now.’
Britain has resisted signing up to a quota system on the basis it will draw more migrants from a war torn Middle East. Instead, the Government has gone to refugee camps to rescue the most needy.
But reports from Brussels emerged last night indicating Britain would be told to join a controversial quota scheme to take new arrivals from Greece or Italy or face being stopped from using EU deportation rules to its advantage.
The United Nations has estimated one million people will try and get into Europe this year, either by sailing across the Mediterranean or walking through the Balkans – an area currently suffering from freezing winter weather.
Eurosceptics last night accused the EU of ‘mafia-style blackmail’ to force the UK to submit to their refugee relocation plan.
More than 12,000 people have been removed from Britain to other EU countries under these rules since 2003 – a figure the Home Office has boasted is ‘many more than we have received in return’.
European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker today said he wanted an additional summit added to European leaders’ schedule specifically discuss the migration crisis.
Because the talks on Britain’s membership of the EU, Mr Juncker said he was ‘rather worried that we won’t have enough time to tackle the refugee question in sufficient depth’.
If the Dublin regulations were changed would mean that, if Britain wanted to be able to deport asylum seekers who have travelled through other EU countries first, it would have to take refugees.
Tory MEP David Campbell Bannerman, of Conservatives for Britain, last night told the Mail: ‘This is a complete disgrace. It’s clear we no longer have control of our borders, just the controls the EU allows us if we are lucky.
‘The linkage between the two is mafia-style blackmail.’
An EU source said: ‘The UK retains the right to choose whether or not they participate in the new system.’
Meanwhile, Austria has put a cap on the number of refugees it wants to accept – 37,500 this year and a total of 127,500 through 2019.
The numbers were announced after a meeting of federal ministers and provincial governors.
Chancellor Werner Faymann said the figures are a ‘guideline’ while deputy chancellor Reinhard Mitterlehner called it an ‘upper limit’. The two officials are from the two parties that make up Austria’s coalition government.
Officials said the government will be examining legal options on how it can react if those numbers are exceeded.
Mr Faymann called the decision an ’emergency solution’, but said Austria ‘cannot accept everyone applying for asylum’.
Not included are the 90,000 applications from last year, of which many are still being processed.
The European Council president warned yesterday that the EU will face the collapse of its Schengen border-free travel area unless migration policy is sorted out before the March summit. Donald Tusk told MEPs: ‘We have no more than two months to get things under control.’
EU migration commission Dimitris Avramopoulos told a committee of MEPs that the ‘Dublin Regulation’must be ‘revised very deeply’ to include a mechanism to distribute asylum seekers ‘quasi-automatically’.
He said: ‘The Commission will make a proposal by March of this year. Dublin should not be any more just a mechanism to allocate responsibility, but also a solidarity instrument among member states.
‘In particular they need to have distribution key system under which applicants would be quasi-automatically distributed to a member state.
‘Dublin must be revised very deeply. When Dublin was adopted the situation and the landscape was very different, things have changed.
‘The ones who defend the old Dublin, I wonder whether they really understand the situation today.
Meanwhile more migrants are arriving in Greece – the gateway to the EU – by boat each day than the figure for the whole of January last year. In the first 18 days of 2016, 31,244 people have come ashore on the country’s islands at a rate of 1,735 a day.
Some 1,472 migrants were recorded crossing the Aegean in the whole of January last year.
The International Organization for Migration warned the surge suggests the number arriving in Greece in 2016 ‘may significantly exceed the record 853,650 migrants’ who arrived last year.
Although the number is down on the 108,742 that arrived in December, it has set off alarm bells that the situation is much worse than a year ago.
Westminster insiders said the revelations made the prospect of David Cameron holding his EU referendum in June even more likely. Number Ten is concerned that, if this summer brings an influx even greater than last year, it could tip the contest in favour of the Leave campaign.
And the world’s financial watchdog warned last night that Europe is being overwhelmed by a ‘tide’ of migrants and the jobs market may be unable to cope.
But Brussels officials plan to link deportation scheme to the controversial refugee quota, which Britain has so far resisted signing up to
The IMF said the EU was struggling to absorb the vast numbers of new arrivals and a strong response was ‘critical’.
Cabinet minister Chris Grayling, who is expected to be a leading figure in the campaign for Britain to leave the EU, also warned there were ‘some really difficult times ahead for countries in central Europe in dealing with the incredible flow of migration that just continues day by day, week by week’.
The surge in the number arriving on the Greek islands shows that the deal where EU countries agreed to hand over £2.1billion to Turkey to stem the flow has failed to make a difference.
Austria has announced that its army will start carrying out thorough identity and bag checks of every migrant arriving at the main border crossing with Slovenia from today.