In a series of interviews published in Le Figaro, the Luxemburger Wort and the Tageblatt on 14 September 2015, the Luxembourg Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration, Jean Asselborn, reported on the refugee crisis. The subject is on the programme of the Justice and Home Affairs Council (JHA), which he will chair on 14 September.
For Jean Asselborn, this day "will perhaps be the most important day for the Luxembourg Presidency ". "The fate of refugees is at stake, as well as the values of Europe and solidarity", explained the Minister to the two Luxembourg daily newspapers.
"Europe only works if we show solidarity", explained Jean Asselborn to Dani Schumacher, a journalist at the Wort. "It is our moral duty to protect refugees and international law leaves us no choice on the matter, whether it is the Geneva Convention or the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights", indicated Jean Asselborn. He insisted on the need to develop "a long-term strategy in order to avoid having to start all over again with the next wave of refugees". The problem will indeed last "for at least a decade".
For the Minister, the objective of the Council is to reach an "overall political agreement" on the new proposal from the European Commission to relocate 120,000 refugees (50,000 of which have arrived in Greece, 54,000 in Hungary and 16,000 in Italy). This political agreement should then be implemented during the JHA Council on 8 and 9 October 2015, explained Jean Asselborn to the two Luxembourg daily newspapers.
As a reminder, the Commission's proposal is an addition to the one made in May, which provided for the relocation of 40,000 people, on which the Ministers of Immigration all agreed during the JHA Council of July 2015. The Minister hopes to reach a "final decision" on the relocation of these refugees, which could start on 15 September, he explained to Jean-Jacques Mével from the Figaro. Although the Member States were only able to agree on about 34,000 people, Jean Asselborn is hoping to find a solution for the remaining 6,000 by December at the latest, according to the Wort.
For Jean Asselborn, any solution depends on the drawing up of "hotspots", first reception measures in the country of entry, in particular Greece and Italy, where the asylum seekers are registered and where their asylum application is verified. "No relocation of refugees is possible if the EU entry desks in Italy, and, above all, in Greece are not working", explained the Minister to Le Figaro.
"If the asylum seekers are not covered by the Geneva Convention, returns have to be organised", he explained to Dhiraj Sabharwal from Tageblatt. In order to help Italy and, above all, Greece, Jean Asselborn proposes toimprove the protection of borders, with the help of the Frontex agency, and the registration of refugees, with the help of the European Asylum Support Office EASO.
"We want to know who these people are, where they come from and if they meet asylum conditions", he added in Le Figaro, insisting on refugees' "obligations" "to register at their arrival point". "After that, they are unable to choose. Once assigned to one of the reception countries, they must accept it", he confirmed.
The Minister appealed for "order in the current chaos", highlighting that Germany's decision to temporarily re-establish border controls with Austria "reflected the urgency of the situation". "Internal border controls are allowed under exceptional circumstances", he explained in Le Figaro. However, the Minister warned against challenging the free movement of people as defined in the Schengen Agreement.
In his interview in the Tageblatt, the Minister also warned against the closing of borders, as planned by Hungary. "If Hungary seals its borders, people will look for another route and other Balkan countries will close their borders. Such a situation would be uncontrollable", he concluded.
Faced with Hungary's refusal to participate in the relocation mechanism, Jean Asselborn deems that Hungary "is a real problem" and that it "has invalidated itself". But neither the mechanism itself nor the figures proposed will be brought into question, he reassured Le Figaro. Jean Asselborn, who referred to the clear solidarity still shown today to eastern EU countries in the context of sanctions against Russia, as well as at the time of the fall of the URSS, warned that: "If reciprocity is not shown at the right time, there may be consequences…".
When asked by the Wort about the Dublin Regulation, Jean Asselborn explained that "Dublin is not designed for exceptional situations": "Dublin is not dead. We must not abandon Dublin while we do not have a new mechanism".
Jean Asselborn wonders whether it is not necessary to go further along the path of "resettlement" as is the case in the United Kingdom. With this mechanism, "we can avoid the problem of traffickers".
The Minister insisted again on the need to provide "enormous financial resources". "A huge budget is needed. A billion Euros will not be enough", he explained. In the three interviews, Jean Asselborn appealed for help for Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. "Many of the 4 million Syrians there would like to stay close to where they come from. If they follow the route to Europe, it is because the UN's Commissioner for Refugees has no more resources to tackle the situation", explains the Minister to Le Figaro.