EU nations push for stronger rules to detain asylum seekers after hybrid attack launched by Belarus

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Hardline member states are pressing Brussels to water down protections for asylum seekers, allowing them to detain migrants for five months to avert future border crises.

Austria and Poland are leading the push for the European Commission to introduce further draconian measures under its “Crisis Regulation” to deter illegal immigrants crossing into the bloc.

Vienna believes the rules need tightening to deter future “hybrid attacks” by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko, who has been accused of sending tens of thousands of migrants to the border with Poland, Latvia and Lithuania.

“In the present situation, on the Polish-Belarusian section of the state border, we have a similar situation, where access is severely limited or prevented,” Poland said in an internal EU document, first reported by the EU Observer website.

“Austria could also imagine extending the time limit up to 20 weeks as foreseen in the ‘Crisis Regulation’.”

Earlier this month, the Commission agreed to allow Poland, Lithuania and Latvia to detain people for 16 weeks in processing centres on their frontier with Belarus as part of new temporary measures initially approved for six months.

Brussels’ proposals for the remaining 24 EU member states allow them to first screen people at the border over a maximum of five days.

Under the plans, migrants would then be sent home or sent into a 12-week asylum procedure, up from the current maximum of four weeks. Children under the age of 12 would be exempted.

In a separate document, officials from Vienna stressed the new EU-wide asylum rules need tightening because of the risk of future “hybrid attacks on European borders”.

It calls for “accelerated border procedures with few exceptions” and “effective restriction of movement” to deter migrants from crossing into the EU.

Photo – A handout photo made available by Belta news agency shows migrants gathering on the Belarusian-Polish border in the Grodno region, Belarus, 08 November 2021. EPA-EFE/LEONID SCHEGLOV / HANDOUT

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