EU proposal to process refugees outside Europe is popular but flawed

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez before a meeting on migration and asylum on June 24, 2018, in Brussels. Photo: Thierry Monasse via Getty Images

In anticipation of a full EU summit on Thursday, 16 European leaders met in Brussels on Sunday for an emergency mini-summit on migration and asylum policy — issues that have roiled the continent for years. On the agenda was a proposal to establish “disembarkation platforms” outside the EU that would process the claims of migrants rescued or intercepted at sea before reaching the bloc.

The proposal appears to be broadly palatable, both to hardliners, who want to see tougher border controls, and to those who urge respect for refugee protection principles.

Yes, but: Establishing migrant processing centers outside the bloc might be easier said than done, due to legal and ethical concerns as well as practical challenges.

The obstacles:

  1. Persuading countries to host such centers, which would likely draw more asylum seekers (including those without legitimate claims) to their territories. What inducements would the EU need to provide to entice potential hosts? Albania and Tunisia have been discussed as candidates, but there's scant evidence either country is willing.
  2. Settling the authority and criteria for asylum decisions. To make an offshore processing scheme work, EU member states would need to empower a common administrative body, agree on the law underpinning its judgement and be prepared to abide by its rulings. That could prove difficult, as bitter recriminations circulate between and within European governments.
  3. Determining where and how to resettle successful asylum claimants across EU member states. This is the biggest obstacle, since intractable clashes over quotas would likely worsen.

The bottom line: Establishing migrant processing centers outside Europe might have political appeal for EU leaders, but won't address the underlying issue: the absence of a fair and equitable burden-sharing scheme across EU member nations and the dim prospects for implementing one.

Jessica Brandt is a fellow in the foreign policy program at the Brookings Institution.

What's next

⚖️ Live updates: Democrats close out their opening arguments

House managers wrapped up their three-day impeachment presentation with a direct appeal to the senators to think about the precedent their actions — or more notably their inaction — would have on democracy and Congress’ future ability to serve as a check on the president.

The close: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) anticipated attacks on him, other House managers, the Ukraine whistleblower, and the Bidens from Trump's team, which begins its defense of the president on Saturday. He appealed directly to GOP senators: “Real political courage does not come from disagreement with our opponents, but disagreeing with our friends and our own party.”

Go deeperArrowJan 21, 2020 - Politics

Death toll climbs in coronavirus outbreak

41 people have died from an outbreak of a coronavirus strain that originated in Wuhan, China, AP reports.

The latest: The respiratory illness has made its way to Europe, with France confirming three cases, Reuters reports. France's Health Minister Agnès Buzyn said Friday two patients are hospitalized in Paris. The other case is in the southwestern city of Bordeaux. They had returned from a trip that had a stop in Wuhan.

Go deeperArrowJan 20, 2020 - World

Lawyer alleges Giuliani associate recorded Trump comments on Ukrainian ambassador

Photo: Oliver Contreras/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

The lawyer for Lev Parnas, a Rudy Giuliani associate, claims there is a recording of President Trump saying former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch should be fired, the Daily Beast reports.

The latest: Parnas said on Friday that he has turned the recording over to the House Intelligence Committee, per the New York Times — as Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) led House Democrats in laying out the case for impeaching Trump before the Senate.

Go deeperArrow16 hours ago - Politics