LONDON: The EU is considering suspending some rights belonging to asylum seekers in countries bordering Belarus in an effort to end the ongoing migrant crisis.
Proposals put forward by the European Commission, the executive arm of the bloc, would allow for faster deportations and the detention of asylum seekers at the border for up to four months.
The plans are aimed at mitigating the political harm caused by large numbers of people attempting to enter Poland and other EU states from Belarus, in what Brussels describes as a crisis manufactured by Minsk.
The EU argues that Belarus has flown migrants in from the Middle East in order to put pressure on its northeastern border regions and manufacture political instability, with the onus of dealing with a large influx of migrants placed disproportionately on Poland, Lithuania and Latvia.
Belarus has denied those accusations, calling them absurd.
The three Belarus-bordering EU states have defended their approach of pushing migrants back without individually assessing their cases or granting them a realistic chance to claim asylum.
Rights groups say that 13 people have now died in the area due to the freezing conditions and that the practice violates EU rules and international humanitarian law.
Under the EU’s proposals, migrants would be permitted to claim asylum only at designated locations, such as border crossings.
National authorities would have a longer period of up to four weeks to register asylum applications and asylum seekers could be kept for up to 16 weeks at the border, losing a standing right to be held in more suitable centers inside the country.
The proposals are a further example of the EU tightening immigration rules since more than one million people arrived in 2015 — many of them fleeing the conflict in Syria — overwhelming the bloc and dividing member states over how to respond.
Immigration is among the most contentious intra-bloc issues for EU members, in part because regulation and geography mean that the burden of managing asylum applications and inward immigration falls disproportionately on Southern and Eastern countries — many of which are less wealthy than western states, such as France and Germany.
According to Lithuania’s interior ministry, around 10,000 migrants remain in Belarus, despite Minsk initiating removal flights for some.