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Sofia summit Swiss justice minister sees door opening for refugee resettlement

Simonetta Sommaruga

Sommaruga took part in a meeting of European interior ministers in Sofia, Bulgaria

(Keystone)

After taking part in a meeting of European leaders regarding refugee resettlement, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga said “now is the time” to reform the asylum system across the continent.

European Union interior ministers met on Thursday in Sofia, Bulgaria to re-visit the thorny issue of resettling thousands of refugees from conflict-torn parts of Africa and the Middle East. Since Non-EU member Switzerland was invited to participate because it is part of the so-called Dublin agreement governing asylum policy across Europe. 

+ Here's how another recent international summit on refugee resettlement concluded. 

Sommaruga said after Thursday’s meeting that the refugee situation in Europe had stabilised, with lower numbers of asylum seekers overall. She sees “willingness among many European countries to take the step” of overhauling the system and coming up with a long-term resettlement plan. But she admitted it won’t be easy. 

Heads of state of EU countries previously gave their interior ministers a deadline of the end of 2018 to reach an agreement on reforming the Dublin system. 

+  How the Dublin system has worked for Switzerland

Among the questions currently on the table are whether each country should receive a required number of asylum seekers to resettle. Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl spoke out against the idea, as did the representative from Slovakia. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière supports the idea, as does Switzerland’s Sommaruga. 

The EU Commission also stands behind the idea of a refugee resettlement quota for each country, but the divisive nature of the proposal means it may ultimately hang on decisions made by EU countries’ heads of state at a summit planned for June.

Also on Thursday, the Swiss Federal Audit Office said that the State Secretariat for Migration in Switzerland should iexternal linkmprove monitoring of its integration programme. external link

SDA-ATS/vdv

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