17th June 2024
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Pedro Sánchez hails EU migrant deal, ‘key’ for Spain’s border management

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez praised the decision taken on Wednesday by the EU to reform its migration laws, saying it was key for Spain’s ability to manage arrivals and its border.

Many EU countries, including France, Germany and the Netherlands also hailed the accord.

The EU’s agreement to an overhaul of its asylum laws includes more border detention centres and speedier deportations, while maintaining respect of human rights – although it has prompted migrant charities to slam the changes as ‘dangerous’ and ‘cruel’.

Spain is one of the main entry points for migrants into Europe, particularly via the western Mediterranean.

‘It will allow us to do something very important: that is to improve our border management, to manage migratory flows in a more humane and coordinated way,’ Sánchez said.

Between 1 January and 15 December, a total of 52,945 migrants entered Spain illegally, the highest level since 2018 and a 76% increase over the same time last year, according to the latest interior ministry figures.

The number of migrant arrivals in Spain’s Canary Islands so far this year had already passed the record number set during all of 2006.

The EU reform includes faster vetting of irregular arrivals, creating border detention centres, accelerated deportation for rejected asylum applicants and a solidarity mechanism to take pressure off southern countries experiencing big inflows.

The overhaul, based on a commission proposal put forward three years ago, keeps the existing principle under which the first EU country an asylum-seeker enters is responsible for their case.

But to help countries experiencing a high number of arrivals — as is the case with Spain and other Mediterranean countries, including Italy, Greece and Malta — a compulsory solidarity mechanism would be set up.

That would mean a certain number of migrant relocations to other EU countries, or countries that refuse to take in migrants would provide a financial or material contribution to those that do — something Budapest is fiercely against.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the agreement on ‘a fair and pragmatic approach to managing migration’.

The accord still needs to be formally approved by the European Council, representing the 27 EU member countries, and the European Parliament before it enters the bloc’s lawbooks.

That is expected to be done before June 2024, when EU elections will decide the next parliament. Nationalist parties with anti-immigrant stances are forecast to win more seats in the parliament, reflecting a harder stance among EU voters struggling with a high cost of living.

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