EU Commission to review asylum claim system

EU Commission to unveil options for reforms to the asylum claim system • The Netherlands takes to the polls on free trade deal with Ukraine

The European Commission is due to reveal options for reforms to the way EU countries handle asylum claims in response to the current migration crisis, the BBC reports.

Under the Dublin Regulation - the current system for dealing with refugees- member states have the power to return asylum seekers to the first EU state they entered for their claim to be dealt with there.

However, the proposed options are a reaction to the difficulties faced by front-line countries like Greece and Italy to deal with the thousands of refugees travelling to Europe from Africa and the Middle East, with over a million people entering Europe in the past year. The current arrangement has left countries like Greece and Italy battling to cope with the copious requests for protection.

The BBC reports that the Commission is expected to suggest either a modest change that preserves the current system but adds a "fairness" provision so a country struggling to cope can get help, or a more radical option that would be to scrap the existing rules and distribute refugees around Europe.

A number of eastern European states and the UK are among those who clearly want to keep the system which allows them to return asylum seekers to the country where they entered the EU. Many eastern European countries have also refused to take in any asylum seekers throughout the year.

On Monday, Greece began deporting migrants to Turkey under the EU’s controversial deal with the country.  The first boats took back 202 people and hundreds more are due to be removed later this week, but concerns are mounting that both countries are unprepared for the deal, with refugees arriving in Greece faster than current staff can send them back and conditions in Turkish centres being described as less than favourable. Turkey is taking back refugees in exchange for a number of sanctions from the EU.

The Netherlands takes to the polls on free trade deal with Ukraine

People in the Netherlands are taking part in a referendum on an EU free trade deal with Ukraine, with experts viewing the referendum as a chance to protest against the expansion of the bloc, and what is often considered undemocratic decision making.

Some campaigners are also viewing the referendum, where people will be given the choice of voting for or against ratification of the deal, as a precursor of the UK's June referendum on EU membership.

The BBC adds that under a Netherlands law from last year, the result is valid only if turnout is more than 30%. However, if a majority votes against the deal, the government can introduce new legislation which in effect would cancel its ratification. On the other hand, if there is a vote in favour it can advise parliament to uphold the ratification.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has described the stakes in the run-up to the vote as being high, warning that a "No'" vote could trigger a wider crisis in the 28-member bloc.