A European Union summit last week put migration at the top of its agenda, as tens of thousands of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East continue to pose major humanitarian and political challenges for the EU.

Italy, as the country of entry for most migrants crossing the Mediterranean, aims to change a rule that requires asylum seekers to claim asylum in their first country of arrival. German hardliners, including some of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition partners, want to reinstate internal borders to allow officials to turn away secondary migrants from Italy and other countries of first arrival.

The European Council responded to this crisis with a renewed commitment to dealing with migration at a common EU level, proposing new processing centers in North Africa to prevent migrants from reaching the EU across the Mediterranean, but stopping short of reforming the “Dublin convention” rules that put pressure on countries such as Italy.

The European Council said it will:

  • Allow EU member states to set up secure centers to process asylum claims. Migrants whose claims are rejected would be returned to their home countries.
  • Provide incentives for non-EU states, especially in North Africa, to establish regional centers where people intending to migrate to Europe could apply for international protection.
  • Increase cooperation among member states to reduce the number of migrants moving within the EU.
  • Work to reform EU asylum policy, especially the Dublin convention rules, which states that migrants’ asylum claims must be considered in the first country in which they arrive.

BAL Analysis: Migration to the EU from Northern Africa and the Middle East continues to pose major challenges for the EU. The EU Council proposals were broadly welcomed by Italy and gave Merkel a chance to strike a compromise with hardliners in her government. Merkel agreed on Monday to tighten controls along Germany’s border with Austria and to set up “transit centers” in Germany to hold migrants who have already applied for asylum in other countries until they can be sent back.

While these EU refugee policies do not directly affect high-skilled and corporate migration, any threat to the operation of the Schengen Agreement, which allows visa free travel within mainland Europe, can ultimately have adverse business impacts. Conversely, attempts to develop a common EU approach on migration at the refugee level, pave the way for collaboration on issues such as intracompany transferees. BAL will continue to follow matters in Europe and will update corporate clients on any key developments.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group. For additional information, please contact your BAL attorney.

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