The European Commission’s ‘New’ Pact on Migration and Asylum

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(by Áine Macdonald)

In September 2020, the European Commission revealed the New Pact on Migration and Asylum (the pact) [1] , a series of long-waited reforms to the EU migration system. Hooray! Because, let’s be honest, the current system just isn’t good enough.
The European Commission itself describes the pact as ‘a fresh start on migration in Europe…building confidence through more effective procedures and striking a new balance between responsibility and solidarity’.
The UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency) and the International Organisation for Migration have welcomed the pact. However, they appealed to the EU to guarantee a ‘truly joint and principled approach that addresses all aspects of migration and asylum governance’ . [2]

This all sounds incredibly promising and it is our hope that the pact, with its aim to create a common, comprehensive, well-managed and predictable system, will be a fresh outlook on the European approach to asylum and migration.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, what exactly does the pact entail?

What is included in the pact?

Firstly, the pact promises more efficient procedures. This includes

  • New compulsory pre-entry screening for identification, health checks, security checks, and registration
  • A faster asylum border procedure
  • A focus on applicants rather than applications
  • And an independent monitoring mechanism and an individual assessment of asylum claims

Secondly, the pact offers a united response for crisis scenarios. Such scenarios include disembarking after search and rescue operations at sea or when there is too much pressure on some European countries’ migration management systems. Maybe this will guarantee protection to vulnerable people and ensure that every country is contributing equally.

Finally, the pact aims to:


But is this pact all that it claims to be?
Given that the pact is at its conception, it will be difficult to assess its true impact for a long time. It appears very promising and we are hopeful that, if the pact is affirmed, it is beneficial and meets the needs of migrants and asylum seekers. However, given the difficulties faced by refugees (I urge you to read ‘Asylum Seekers’ Trajectory: Official Procedure in the Netherlands [3]), there are several issues that must be considered:

  • Has the pact allowed the EU stronger control of its external borders?
  • Has the proposal to establish a pre-screening process for asylum requests placed people at greater risk of being detained or expelled?
  • Does the pact prevent irregular migration, rather than guarantee the migration policies based on principles of unity and protection that were promised?

There is one particular section of the pact that has raised concern: the proposal to prevent an asylum claim if an applicant comes from a country with a recognition rate equal to or lower than 20%. The asylum recognition rate is the percentage of positive decisions compared to that of negative decisions from one country into another. Does this proposal reflect a position of protection and security or quite the opposite?

Finally, there are many who are apprehensive about the novelty of the pact, claiming it to be ‘old wine in new bottles.’[4] Is it really a new pact, or will it just reinforce previous legislation?

Only time will tell how effective the pact is and whether it meets the needs of the people who are most vulnerable. While we applaud the recognition of a need for change, we should remain vigilant.

[1] European Commission proposes a New Pact on Migration and Asylum (

[2] UNHCR – UNHCR and IOM call for a truly common and principled approach to European migration and asylum policies

[3] Asylum seekers’ trajectories: Official procedure in the Netherlands – Refugee Project Maastricht

[4] The EU’s Pact on Migration and Asylum will do little to ease the pressure on southern member states | EUROPP (