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New EU agreement would make it easier for countries to remove failed asylum-seekers

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today, the European Union broke years of political deadlock and agreed on a deal that will change how its 27 member nations process and relocate migrants. As NPR's Rob Schmitz reports, the agreement, which still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament, will make it easier for EU members to remove unsuccessful asylum-seekers.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Members of the EU Parliament worked through the evening to agree on an overhaul of EU asylum procedures. The move comes after years of failed attempts while migrants continued to arrive over land and sea, fuelling popular anger in several countries over the lack of a unified immigration policy.

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ROBERTA METSOLA: Today is truly a historic day. I am surrounded by colleagues who have not slept...

(LAUGHTER)

METSOLA: ...For days and nights in a very, I would say, also, emotional moment.

SCHMITZ: European Parliament president Roberta Metsola said this agreement was likely the EU Parliament's most important legislative mandate.

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METSOLA: It was not easy, but it only makes this achievement even more important. We have defied the odds and proven that Europe can deliver on the issue that matters to citizens.

SCHMITZ: Under the agreement, which will need to be approved by both the EU Parliament and the European Council, the countries that make up the southern border of the EU will institute a stricter asylum procedure, and they'll be given more powers to remove rejected asylum-seekers. Inland EU countries will be given a choice on whether to accept a certain number of migrants or pay into a joint EU fund meant for migrant resettlement. EU parliamentarian Tomas Tobe.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TOMAS TOBE: We will now finally have a binding solidarity mechanism. This is not a small thing. This will mean that we will finally have every member state actually taking responsibility, not only a few member states.

SCHMITZ: The deal comes just six months before the EU parliamentary elections. Polls are showing a surge of support for far-right, anti-immigrant parties in some of Europe's biggest economies, like Germany and the Netherlands, where a far-right party recently received the most votes in a national election. Rachel Dalumpines, spokesperson for German activist group Sea-Watch International, says the deal is going to lead to a more dangerous situation for incoming migrants.

RACHEL DALUMPINES: (Non-English language spoken).

SCHMITZ: "Europe has said yes and agreed to let more people die in the Mediterranean," she said, "making the misery at the borders a permanent situation, abolishing the rights of refugees once and for all." After the EU Parliament and the European Council approve this deal, it'll go to the national Parliaments of the EU's 27 member states for a vote later this year.

Rob Schmitz, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF KACEY MUSGRAVES' "SLOW BURN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rob Schmitz is NPR's international correspondent based in Berlin, where he covers the human stories of a vast region reckoning with its past while it tries to guide the world toward a brighter future. From his base in the heart of Europe, Schmitz has covered Germany's levelheaded management of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rise of right-wing nationalist politics in Poland and creeping Chinese government influence inside the Czech Republic.