Rwanda Redux? – 15 EU Member States Endorse Processing Asylum Requests Outside the Union

Passport control Source: Daniel Schludi/

15 member states of the European Union, led by Denmark, have issued a joint letter, calling to develop the outsourcing of migration and asylum policy, emphasizing that the increase in irregular arrivals seen in recent years justifies thinking “outside the box.”

The letter, dated 15 May but made public on Thursday, is addressed to the high-ranking officials in the European Commission. Besides Denmark, it is endorsed by Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, Romania and Finland, reflecting a cross-party consensus.

The four-page statement pitches ideas and proposals deliberately designed to partially shift tasks from national authorities to neighbouring countries. Although the letter emphasizes that the newly accepted Pact on Migration and Asylum “will equip EU Member States with a stronger legal framework for managing the various aspects of migration”, it also states that for full success (breaking down the driving factors and the influx of illegal migration), further steps are necessary.

These steps include partnerships with key partner countries along the migratory routes (and agreements with them in keeping with the already existing cooperation with Tunisia and Turkiye) and the establishment and enhancement of the Emergency Transit Mechanisms, including saving migrants in distress off the high seas and transporting them to partnering countries outside the European Union.

According to the signatories, it is important that Member States have the possibility to transfer asylum applicants to a safe third country, if possible. The application of the concept of ‘safe third countries’ in EU asylum law will thus be reassessed sometime in 2025.

They also write that the new migration pact and the Schengen Borders Code provide a legal framework on instrumentalisation of migration, as seen in Belarus on the Polish border. There is a need to further strengthen this framework “to provide a comprehensive response to the threats posed by the instrumentalisation of migrants at the EU’s external borders.”

Although not as excessive and controversial as Britain’s proposed Rwanda law, given that around the time the bill was introduced Austria expressed its interest in adopting a system similar to that. Austria is a signatory of the joint letter addressed to – besides other decision-makers – EU Internal Commissioner Ylva Johansson. However, since the Internal Council is not going in session until after the European elections due in early June, the letter will have little effect in the short run.

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