EU nations debating borders, migration policies

Feb 3, 2022, 3:19 AM | Updated: 3:24 am
European Union ministers for justice and the interior participate in a meeting, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2...

European Union ministers for justice and the interior participate in a meeting, Thursday, Feb. 3, 2022 in Lille, northern France. French President Emmanuel Macron is taking aim at migration — a core issue in the country's presidential campaign — by pushing to strengthen the European Union's external borders against people illegally entering the bloc's passport-free area. (Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)

(Stephanie Lecocq, Pool Photo via AP)

LILLE, France (AP) — European Union interior ministers on Thursday were debating ways to beef up the 27-nation bloc’s borders, including by erecting walls or fences, and examine yet again how to kick-start desperately needed reforms to the EU’s malfunctioning asylum system.

The EU has been mired in a deep political crisis since well over 1 million people, many of them refugees fleeing war in Syria, began entering in 2015. Greece was overwhelmed by migrants landing on its islands on rafts and dinghies from Turkey. Other countries were slow or reluctant to help.

The old asylum system, based on the notion that the country where migrants first arrive must deal with them, collapsed. New reform proposals have failed to overcome the fundamental problem – who should take responsibility and what kind of help other countries should provide.

France, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, is trying to reenergize the sweeping reform plan by tackling parts of it at a time.

French President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday evening met with the interior ministers in a push to “move the issue forward.” Macron acknowledged members states have different views depending on their geographic situation and warned against divisions.

He proposed the creation of a new body, the Schengen Council, that would gather members of the free-passport area to make decisions on migration policies, including preventing difficulties and bringing a quick response in case of crisis.

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said Thursday “there can be no migration policy at the European level without a significant dimension of border management.”

“We are now working to accelerate our agreement” on both external borders issue and the asylum system at talks in Lille, northern France, he added.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin said he wants all member states to “show support” toward nations where migrants first arrive — whether they are Mediterranean or Eastern European countries.

“They see sometimes massive arrivals of refugees because of the geopolitical instability of the world,” he stressed.

“The idea is to understand difficulties of countries of first entry” in the EU and show “full solidarity” via relocating asylum seekers in other countries or helping them financially. In exchange, they must “record all foreigners who arrive on our soil,” he said.

So far, talk has tended to focus on outsourcing the EU’s migrant challenges to the countries that people leave or transit to get to Europe and on beefing up borders.

In Lille, the ministers will pick over new proposals to respond to what have been dubbed “hybrid attacks” using migrants, after Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko invited thousands of people, many of them Iraqis, to Belarus with the promise of helping them to enter Europe.

Lithuania and Poland, notably, are working on border barriers to keep people out, and have also changed their national asylum rules to make it harder for people to stay. The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, has made a series of proposals that countries can use in an emergency.

In a document laying out national positions on the proposals, which has been seen by The Associated Press, a strong minority of countries favor the use of walls or fences to stop people entering, and some argue that EU money should be used to pay for the barriers.

Denmark, for example, suggests a reference in the reform plans “to the funding opportunities for physical barriers under the Border Management and Visa Instrument (BMVI),” given that the European Council’s legal service “has made it clear that it is possible to fund physical barriers from the EU budget.”

The European Commission, which holds the EU’s purse strings and is responsible for proposing joint legislation and ensuring that the rules are respected, has long opposed the use of European money to fund walls, which several officials have said are not in line with the bloc’s values.

The ministers will also weigh the definition of a new term being added to the EU’s migrant-management lexicon: “instrumentalization.” For the commission, this is when a country “instigates irregular migratory flows” into the EU “by actively encouraging or facilitating the movement” of migrants to the bloc.

Belarus is just the latest case that would fit the definition. In early 2020, at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, Turkey allowed thousands of migrants to move through its territory to Greece and Bulgaria, triggering violent clashes at their borders.

The talks in Lille are also likely to focus on another area where the Europeans tend to agree: deportation. On average, only around 40% of people refused entry to the bloc are ever actually sent home.


Lorne Cook reported from Brussels.


Follow all AP stories on global migration at

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Associated Press

Oldest Magellanic penguin at San Francisco Zoo dies at 40

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The oldest Magellanic penguin at the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens — one of the oldest penguins living under human care anywhere in the world — died Wednesday at the age of 40, the zoo reported. The estimated age of the male, called Captain Eo, was well over the species’ average […]
21 hours ago
Cherelle Griner, Brittney Griner's wife, talks prior to a rally for Phoenix Mercury WNBA basketball...
Associated Press

Mercury hold public rally in support of Brittney Griner

PHOENIX (AP) — They shared laughs, smiles, memories. There also were tears, fears, unease. Through the range of emotions, one common thread bonded them together: Brittney Griner. Wearing “BG” shirts and holding signs, several hundred fans gathered for a public rally in support of Griner on Wednesday, hoping their sentiments would reach the WNBA player […]
21 hours ago
FILE - Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin addresses the court as Hennepin County Judge...
Associated Press

Ex-cop Chauvin to get federal sentence for Floyd’s killing

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Derek Chauvin will learn his sentence Thursday for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, with a deal in place that would extend the former Minneapolis police officer’s time behind bars while shifting him to possibly more favorable conditions in a federal prison. Chauvin agreed to a sentence of 20 to 25 years in […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Detroit officer, gun-wielding suspect dead after shooting

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit police officer and a man wielding an assault-style weapon were fatally shot on the city’s west side Wednesday night, Detroit police Chief James White said. White said the officer and his partner responded about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday to a call of a man firing a weapon. He said when the […]
21 hours ago
FILE - The Pfizer logo is displayed at the company's headquarters, Feb. 5, 2021, in New York. The F...
Associated Press

US allows pharmacists to prescribe Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill

WASHINGTON (AP) — Pharmacists can prescribe the leading COVID-19 pill directly to patients under a new U.S. policy announced Wednesday that’s intended to expand use of Pfizer’s drug Paxlovid. The Food and Drug Administration said pharmacists can begin screening patients to see if they are eligible for Paxlovid and then prescribe the medication, which has […]
21 hours ago
Associated Press

Reports: Law enforcement officers shoot man on W.Va. highway

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Several law enforcement authorities shot a man on a federal highway in West Virginia, news outlets reported Wednesday, and video of the shooting was circulating on social media. Authorities did not release details or respond to requests for more information. In the video, the man walks onto the four-lane freeway near […]
21 hours ago

Sponsored Articles


Best retirement savings rates hit 4.30%

Maximize your retirement savings with guaranteed fixed rates up to 4.30%. Did you know there is a financial product that can give you great interest rates as you build your retirement savings and provide you with a paycheck for life once you retire? It might sound too good to be true but it is not; this product is called an annuity.
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
Arizona Division of Problem Gambling

Arizona Division of Problem Gambling provides exclusion solution for young sports bettors

Sports betting in Arizona opened a new world to young adults, one where putting down money on games was as easy as sending a text message.
EU nations debating borders, migration policies