TALLINN – The government here on Thursday discussed the European Union's migration and asylum package and the drafts on the abuse of migration, as well as Estonia's positions on these initiatives.
The proposals in the migration and asylum package first and foremost concern pre-entry background checks, mandatory border procedures for migrants from third countries and the concept of solidarity-based burden-sharing between member states, spokespeople for the Estonian Ministry of the Interior said.
In the wake of the hybrid attack by Belarus on the EU's external border, draft measures to respond to situations of exploitation of migration were published at the end of 2021.
The aim of the EU's migration and asylum package is to create a credible migration management system in the EU that is both responsive to the changing situation and compatible with international law, covering migration, asylum, border management and integration policies.
Compared to the previous EU asylum package published in 2016, the migration and asylum package published in 2020 covers a wider range of topics and takes a more holistic approach to the field.
The package places greater emphasis on preventing migratory pressures, better control of external borders and more effective repatriation, and preventing the abuse of the asylum system, which would help to ensure that only those in need receive international protection.
The drafts on the exploitation of migration aim to establish common rules and measures across the EU in the field of migration and asylum in order to respond to hybrid attacks on the European Union and to cases of the abuse of migration, both now and in the future.
Interior Minister Kristian Jaani said that the most important thing at the moment is to find common solutions at the EU level to respond to the hybrid attack launched by Belarus and to react to similar attacks in the future.
"Of course, Estonia supports targeted measures by the European Union in the field of migration and asylum policy, which are based on the needs of the member states under hybrid attack and help to alleviate pressure on the European Union's external borders and migration management. We must provide the necessary assistance to the member states under pressure, both from the European Union agencies and in the form of bilateral agreements," the minister said.
According to Jaani, a good example of this is the deployment of officials of the Police and Border Guard Board, who last year helped their Lithuanian colleagues cope with the migratory pressure from Belarus as well as Slovenian colleagues in guarding the borders of that country.
"If necessary, we are ready to repeat similar missions in the future to show, with real steps, the importance of ensuring security in our immediate region," the minister said.
Estonia supports the European Commission's proposals which will help to prevent the abuse of asylum and migration management systems, improve the control of aliens arriving in the EU illegally and speed up the return of migrants who do not have the right to stay in the European Union.
Estonia also considers it important to address the root causes of migration and to improve cooperation with the main countries of origin and transit of migration in order to prevent people from arriving in the European Union illegally.
However, there are also changes in the new migration and asylum package that Estonia cannot support.
"Estonia is always willing to assist countries under migratory pressure by sending its technology and experts to the areas hit by crisis, but we do not agree with mandatory assistance measures, which may create new pull factors for immigration," Jaani said.
For example, Estonia does not support the compulsory relocation of immigrants, believing that such burden-sharing measures for dealing with immigrants must always remain voluntary for the member states.
Estonia finds that there are other effective ways to help the member states that are facing high migratory pressure.
"We have repeatedly assisted other member states with experts and technology, thereby helping to reduce the pressure of irregular migration on the European Union," Jaani added.
The matter will next go to the Riigikogu for discussion.