EU countries can pay for migrants to be returned from Europe instead of taking in refugees under European Commission plans to overhaul the bloc's migration policy.
The olive branch to the more hardline eastern European states is designed to break a deadlock over reforms. However, Marissa Ryan, head of Oxfam's EU office, criticised the union for "bowing" to anti-migrant governments.
After the 2015 migration crisis, the EC introduced a mandatory quota system for relocating asylum seekers from the most affected member states, such as Italy and Greece.
Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary refused to take in their share, which led to the EC taking action against them in the European Court of Justice.
The EC said the plans would do away with mandatory quotas. Instead, member states could choose between relocating refugees or "return sponsorship". A country under migratory "pressure" that believes it cannot take care of migrants can request a "compulsory solidarity mechanism". All states will then be called upon to contribute, according to their economy and population.
"There will be quotas, but you can choose whether you contribute to your quota via relocation, or return sponsorship or a mix," said Ylva Johansson, the EU commissioner for home affairs.
A country would take financial and political responsibility for ensuring a number of illegal migrants were returned home, and would have eight months to do so. But if an EU member failed to return migrants to their country of origin within the eight months, it would have to take them in.
On average 370,000 asylum applications are rejected annually in the EU but only a third of those ordered out actually leave, the commission said.
The EC said it also wanted to introduce a system where everyone crossing the EU's borders without permission or who was rescued at sea would be fingerprinted, given a health and security check and registered on an EU-wide database to speed up asylum decisions.
Migrants from countries with a positive response rate to asylum applications lower than 20pc, such as Tunisia or Morocco, would be processed at the border within 12 weeks.
Nearly two million illegal border crossings were recorded by the EU in 2015 but by 2019, thanks in part to an EU deal with Turkey, this dropped to 142,000. There were 698,000 asylum applications in 2019. (© Daily Telegraph, London)