EU has accused Greece, Hungary and Germany of breaking asylum law
The European Commission has launched 40 inquiries against 19 countries, including Germany, Greece, Italy, and Hungary for failing to follow asylum rules.
The step, on Wednesday (23 September), comes as European leaders gather in Brussels for emergency talks on the refugee crisis.
It also comes after EU ministers, on Tuesday, outvoted the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia on a refugee-sharing scheme, prompting questions if the four refuseniks will comply.
“This Commission means business,” Frans Timmermans, Commission vice-president in charge of rule-of-law, said while presenting the infringement package.
“I believe one of the reasons why the asylum system isn’t working is because member states don’t apply it. We have a duty to make sure they’re applying it”, he added.
According to the Commission, 18 member states have failed to adopt common European procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection.
Another 19 have not fully transposed common rules for the conditions asylum seekers should be provided with.
EU minimum standards include access to housing, food, healthcare and employment, as well as medical and psychological care.
They also impose restrictions on the detention of vulnerable persons, in particular minors.
The Commission said Bulgaria and Spain are also failing in the area.
But it singled out the Greek asylum system as showing “serious deficiencies” in terms of EU compliance.
It said Greece fails to provide necessary reception conditions for asylum seekers, particularly those with special needs and vulnerable persons.
It also fails to provide a functioning guardianship system and legal representation for unaccompanied children in the asylum procedure.
On fingerprinting, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Hungary, and Italy are being put under review by the EU executive.
On returning migrants, in cases where their asylum requests have been rejected, Germany, Greece, and Italy are also being put under scrutiny.
The member states now have two months to make their case. If the EU Commission finds their answers unsatisfactory, they could face court cases and fines.
The Commission already has 35 other ongoing investigations on asylum rules.
But it didn’t include Hungary’s recently adopted and highly controversial laws on migration.
The new laws include harsher punishments for irregular border crossings and grant extra rights on military intervention.
Hungary says it is upholding EU rules on migration and that Greece, Croatia and others are the ones not following European law.
“If the European Commission comes out with concrete points where EU legislation isn’t followed, we will look at it”, a Hungarian official commented.
“But there is plenty of Hungary-phobia … and that isn’t something we approve of”, he added.
The Commission, on Wednesday, also increased by €1.7 billion the emergency aid for EU countries struggling with migrant arrivals and for refugee camps in Turkey, Lebanon, and Syria.
The decision brings the total aid pot to €9.2 billion.