EU 'To Ease Refugee Burden' On Southern States

Migrants walk along a road after crossing the border from Macedonia, near the village of Miratovac, Serbia, January 19. Europe could change the way it processes refugees. Marko Djurica/Reuters

Some northern EU countries could be forced to take a bigger share of asylum seekers under proposed new regulations, according to reports.

Brussels plans on scrapping rules that mean that the first country a refugee enters is responsible for handling their asylum application, the Financial Times reported. At present, under the so-called Dublin Regulation, countries are able to send asylum seekers back to the state they first arrived at when they entered the union.

The new system to be proposed by the European Commission will overhaul the Dublin Regulation and is likely to allocate countries to asylum seekers "quasi-automatically," EUObserver reported. This would be done using a "distribution key": a formula based on the size of the country's population and other variables that calculates how many refugees it can reasonably be expected to take.

The current system benefits states like the U.K. that are far away from the usual points of arrival for refugees into the EU, such as Greece or Italy.

But the recent influx of refugees has placed a huge burden on southern states like Greece that have struggled to process large volumes of people quickly. Over a million people reached the EU through irregular means in 2015, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Any such change to the EU's rules is likely to be controversial. A mandatory relocation scheme for refugees agreed in 2015, which aimed to move them away from Greece and Italy and into other states, faced fierce opposition and has proved difficult to implement, with just 272 of a planned 160,000 people relocated as of the start of this year.

Writing for Newsweek in January, a spokeswoman for the charity Asylum Aid called for such an overhaul. "We need to rethink the Dublin Regulation...which allows states to send people back to the first country they landed in," she wrote. "This places too much burden on states at the edge of the union, like Greece."