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Asylum and irregular immigration in the EU

Written by Eva Poptcheva

The latest deaths in the Mediterranean have prompted calls from all political actors and stakeholders for action at EU level. The Common European Asylum System, completed in 2013, and the many pieces of legislation on irregular immigration at EU level, have not succeeded in stopping further tragedies in the Mediterranean. Criticism has therefore increasingly been voiced that legislation on asylum and irregular immigration at EU level is not designed to distribute the burden among Member States but rather to allocate responsibilities among them.

© Kumbabali / Fotolia

The lack of genuine burden-sharing is discussed in particular with reference to the ‘Dublin system’, which regulates, in the absence of an EU-wide asylum status, the Member States’ responsibilities for the examination of asylum applications, as well as with regard to the lack of a permanent intra-EU relocation scheme for refugees. Many call therefore for a ‘holistic’ approach to asylum and irregular immigration, not least by the European Parliament in December 2014. The European Commission has announced it will present a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration in May. Our briefing on the EU legal framework on asylum and irregular immigration ‘on arrival’ gives an overview of the legal instruments in the field of asylum and irregular immigration in the EU.

In addition, the data in our infographic on Asylum in the EU: Facts and Figures reflect the increasing number of third-country nationals seeking asylum in the EU. A companion infographic with figures on irregular immigration will be published shortly [the infographic is now available].

Search and rescue operations at sea represent an example in the context of cooperation between Member States, with the EU border surveillance agency, Frontex, coordinating joint operations at sea. Frontex does not however have its own operational capabilities, and owns no ships or aircraft, with Member States lending ships and aircraft to each joint operation. In the same way, the Frontex-led Triton mission, operating in the central Mediterranean, was not supposed to replace the Italian Mare Nostrum operation. The latter had a cost of approximately €9 million per month, whereas the Triton budget is estimated at €2.9 million per month. Our ‘At a glance’ notes on Frontex and on the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) offer further information on the work and challenges of the two agencies. Information on the funding provided by the EU to Member States under migratory pressure, is provided in our briefing on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF).

After the 10-point plan of the immediate actions in response to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean presented by the Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos at the Joint Foreign and Home Affairs Council on 20 April, an extraordinary meeting of the European Council was called by its President, Donald Tusk, to take place today (23 April 2015). Information on the outcome of this extraordinary meeting will be made available in the briefing of our European Council Oversight Unit, to be published shortly after the meeting concludes.

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