EU asylum pact: Refugee Council urges MEPs to reject controversial new plan

"We are very concerned that it hints at some sort of detention."
Michael Staines
Michael Staines

16.09 10 Apr 2024

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EU asylum pact: Refugee Counci...

EU asylum pact: Refugee Council urges MEPs to reject controversial new plan

Michael Staines
Michael Staines

16.09 10 Apr 2024

Share this article

The Irish Refugee Council has said it is “very concerned” about elements of the new EU asylum seeker plan.

MEPs are today voting on the new Migration and Asylum Pact, which will see common rules introduced across the bloc, including faster processing of asylum seekers.

It also aims to eliminate ‘pull factors’ encouraging migration to Europe as well as secondary movements – where people move from one EU country to seek asylum in another.


It also includes measures aimed at offering greater supports to the most affected member states.

Ireland has already agreed to opt-in to the pact after Justice Minister Helen McEntee secured Cabinet approval for it two weeks ago.

That came despite concerns over plans to hold some asylum seekers in ‘designated locations’ while their application was being processed.

Asylum seekers will be held on arrival if:

  • They arrive from a country on the ‘safe’ list.
  • They arrive without identify documentation.
  • They arrive form a country with an asylum application approval rate of 20% or lower in the EU.

They will be held at the location for three months while their application is processed and will not be permitted to enter the State.

If their application is unsuccessful, they must be removed after three months.

"Some sort of detention"

Irish Refugee Council CEO Nick Henderson said the plan is concerning.

“It states that people, if they are eligible, they would be not authorised to enter Ireland and would be accommodated at a designated location,” he said.

“We need more detail as to what that might look like in practice but we are concerned – very concerned – that that hints at some sort of detention.”

'We need this'

Speaking to Newstalk in Brussels this morning, Fine Gael MEP Maria Walsh explained why she plans to vote in favour of the pact today.

“We need this,” she said. “We need to ensure that people who are coming into the European Union and are seeking asylum and protection are treated fairly and that their application is treated quickly and that they can begin their life in any of the 27 member states,” she said.

“[Also, it ensures that] those who have applied and are coming from ‘safe’ countries or other countries where they are not facing persecution can be returned.”

She said she expects today’s vote to be tight – but she is hopeful the plan will be approved.

“The 27 member states working together is key,” she said. “You can’t have one country working one and four or five countries working a different day.

“We can tell that for the last 10 years, that hasn’t worked.”

She said Ireland will have two years to ensure that the designated locations used to hold some asylum seekers are “age-appropriate, safe and built on fundamental human rights”.


Meanwhile, back in Ireland, there are calls for the pact to be voted on by the people – or at least the Dáil.

Independent TD Verona Murphy told Newstalk that the plan will ‘impact on the public purse’ and should be put to a vote.

“The nature of it is such that it would require, as an elected representative I believe, a referendum or at the very least primary legislation before we would agree to opt in or out,” she said.

“I think, at this stage, Government should very much opt out.”

If passed, the legislation will be due to come into force from 2026.

Main image is a file photo showing tents outside the International Protection Office in Dublin 07-03-24. Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.

Reporting from Ellen Butler and Sheila Naughton.

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