Vincent Kessler / Reuters

EU asylum rules rendered ‘obsolete’ by refugee crisis, says Merkel

Under the existing protocols people fleeing war and poverty required to apply in the first EU nation they arrive in

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday described as "obsolete" EU asylum rules that put the onus on member states where refugees first arrive to process their claims.

“Let's be frank. The Dublin process, in its current form, is obsolete,” Merkel said in reference to the protocol that set up the current procedures, which have been stressed past the point of breaking by the sheer number of people flee war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

In a joint speech to the European Parliament with French President Francois Hollande, Mekel described the refugee crisis as a “test of historic dimensions” that required a “determined contribution” by Europe to resolve.

The comments come as EU leaders continue to be split over how to cope with the number of people entering Europe’s borders. Members in the bloc’s east have balked at proposals to have a mandatory quota system to distribute refugees across the EU’s 28 nations.

Meanwhile, Germany — which has taken in more people than any other country — has struggled to convince other nations to shoulder the burden.

Under the existing protocols refugees are required to apply for asylum in the first EU nation they arrive in. But with hundreds of thousands of people using entry points of Italy, Greece and Hungary as springboards to wealthier countries in Europe’s north and west, the system has fallen apart

Speaking in the French city of Strasbourg, Merkel acknowledged that the protocols “started from good intentions,” but continued: “The challenges raised at our borders are from now on untenable."

“I appeal for a new procedure” to redistribute asylum seekers “fairly” throughout the bloc, the chancellor said.

Germany, Europe’s richest economy, expects between 800,000 and one million newcomers this year.

Numbers have surged since Germany declared it would admit Syrians, even if they technically should have applied for refugee status in the first EU country they set foot in on their way to Germany.

On Wednesday, Germany’s interior ministry noted that in September alone, it had received 43,071 asylum applications — an increase of 126 on the same month last year. In the nine months to September, a total of 577,000 people had been registered as asylum seekers.

Such in the disunity among EU leaders, that Hollande suggested the integrity of the bloc’s future was under threat.

“The debate is not about less Europe or more Europe,” Hollande, seated beside Merkel, told lawmakers, evoking the question of national sovereignty besetting member nations. “It is about the affirmation of Europe or the end of Europe. Yes, the end of Europe.”

Al Jazeera and wire services

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