Hotspots in Italy and Greece to closely screen large numbers of refugees are due to be in operation. More than half a million people have arrived in Europe this year in the continent's biggest migration crisis since World War Two.
In September 2015, the EU Commission agreed to set up a mechanism for the relocation of refugees from Italy and Greece, the rapid screening to separate "good" refugees from "bad" economic migrants and for the return of the latter as rapidly as possible.
European Council president Donald Tusk said the system would start at the end of November.
French President Francois Hollande underlined that differentiation must be made between those entitled to international protection and asylum in the EU and economic migrants who should be deported within a short time.
In order to control the refugee movement within the EU, at hotspots in Greece and Italy, EU agencies including Frontex and Europol, as well as EU's asylum screening agency, will help national officials to identify, fingerprint, screen and register applications, and organise relocation to other member states. Four locations in Italy are already operating, and one will be in Piraeus, Greece for asylum seekers arriving on the islands.
To facilitate speedy decision-making, the Commission's package includes a list of safe countries of origin to which it would be safe to return nationals. This list includes the western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia) and Turkey. The intention is to separate economic migrants from asylum seekers, and return the latter efficiently.
There are concerns about the nature of the hotspots (whether deportation or EU-run refugee camps). There are concerns about how decisions will be made and reviewed, and that large numbers of people could be returned to unsafe on unviable situations as not all "safe" countries are safe to all nationals -- Roma, LGBTI (Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex) and other minorities. Kurds and journalists might also be targeted in some countries.
Frontex promotes, coordinates and develops European border management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter, applying the concept of Integrated Border Management. Frontex helps border authorities from different EU countries work together.
Europol is the EU's law enforcement agency. Its main goal is to help achieve a safer Europe for the benefit of all EU citizens.
Date written/update: 2015-10-20