EPRS Strategy By / November 23, 2015

Migration: An unprecedented challenge to the EU

Written by Richard Freedman. In cooperation with Anita Orav and Alexandra Gatto. The EU is facing one of its greatest…

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Written by Richard Freedman. In cooperation with Anita Orav and Alexandra Gatto.

The EU is facing one of its greatest challenges since its foundations in the 1950s. People of all ages are migrating in unprecedented numbers from war-torn and unstable regions, such as Syria, Iraq, and Libya. According to the EU Agency Frontex, roughly 1 214 000 detections of illegal border-crossings were reported by the end of October 2015 compared with approximately 235 000 during the same period in 2014.


As set out in the EPRS briefing ‘EU legal framework on asylum and irregular immigration ‘on arrival’ State of play of March 2015‘, Legal provisions on asylum and immigration are to be found both at EU level and at Member States’ level. Moreover, the international law framework is set by the Geneva Convention and its Protocol relating to the status of refugees, currently binding 142 Contracting States. Huge political leaps forward are ongoing in order to try and tackle the crisis. From hotspots with extra resources to register immigrants to an emergency relocation system, this is one of the busiest areas of EU action.

No easy solutions on the table

Concerted action is needed to address illegal crossings of the EU external borders, not least because there are no internal borders in the Schengen area. A military operation called EUNAVFOR MED has been launched in the Southern Central Mediterranean to fight smuggling activities and help save lives of migrants exploited by the criminal networks of smugglers.

Further, in order to reduce the number of crossings, legal entry channels to the EU could be proposed for persons in need of international protection. These include a possibility to trigger the so-called Temporary Protection Directive, as well as making use of ‘humanitarian admissions’ and ‘humanitarian visas’ and private sponsorship.

In addition to actions on EU territory, solutions are sought outside Europe through cooperation with third countries. The aim is to address the root causes of irregular migration, to counter and prevent migrant smuggling and trafficking, and to provide effective return, readmission and reintegration policies for those not qualifying for protection.

Migrant flow from the Western Balkans

As part of the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission proposed on 9 September 2015 to establish a common EU list of safe countries of origin, initially comprising Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

Hands Holding Immigration Word Concept
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In light of the large number of asylum applications received from the citizens of Western Balkans regardless of the low recognition rates across the EU, this would enable fast-tracking of asylum applications from citizens of these countries, which are considered ‘safe’ according to the criteria set out in the Asylum Procedures Directive and in full compliance with the principle of non-refoulement. Non-refoulement means that ‘no Contracting State shall expel or return (refouler) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’.

Currently, these safe lists are defined at national level and not coordinated, which can lead to different recognition rates of similar asylum applications and the incentive to apply for asylum in Member States with higher recognition rates. The EPRS briefing of October 2015 sets out more information.

European Parliament action

The European Parliament has shown support to alleviate the migratory pressure in the Member States. In a resolution adopted on 10 September 2015, the European Parliament supported allocating an extra €401.3 million in EU funding to tackling the refugee crisis.

On 17 September 2015, the European Parliament backed the Commission’s new proposal to relocate an additional 120,000 asylum seekers from Italy, Greece and Hungary, after having approved the first temporary emergency rules for relocating an initial 40,000 from Italy and Greece only on 9 September. The activity of the European Parliament in approving the measures in record time sent a clear signal to the EU home affairs ministers, urging the Member States to come to an agreement and take immediate action.

Migration is a huge issue facing the EU and the wider world. Escalating tensions in the Middle East and Africa are testing the EU’s reception and humanitarian capacities. The European Union is fulfilling its role by tackling the crisis both in the short and long-term. At the European Youth Event 2016 no doubt this will be one of the key topics of discussion.


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  • The EU has been actively pursuing an agenda of migration encouragement since 2008 with various treaties being put in place to facilitate the process. The Rabat Process, The Khartoum Process and the Barcelona Agreement.

  • It’s exaggerated to say that Merkel created the problem. Rather the problem was created by legal rules like the non-refoulement principle, the open borders in the EU etc which collide with other rules such as Dublin and the general interests of popular sovereignty and staying owner of one’s country. Under pressure of humanitarian propaganda and her social democrat coalition partners, who are very much aligned with Brussels and Rome in their wish to replace the Dublin Regime with a sytem of mass immigration managed by Brussels, Merkel pushed “forward” somewhat recklessly in the direction of entropy.

  • Merkel created the problem sending out the house party invitations. Was she drunk or on pills? Did she seriously not anticipate millions accepting her invite? Did she not remember the floods of people from East Europe to West? Her problem, let her deal with it!

    • No, Merkel did not create a problem of refugees. This is just xenophobic propaganda. Merkel attempted to force a European consensus on how to react to the very large refugee inflows; she did this by setting a policy for Germany. The fact that other countries have chosen to worry about far right political parties more than our international obligation to offer protection to refugees is an indication of how unpleasant and self-centred European policians have become.

      • Yes she did, she made a public invitation to all & sundry that Germany would welcome them & so they set off. Germany ignored the Dublin agreement as they do with any rules they don’t like. She invited them then pulled up the drawer bridge. She created this mess no one else.

        We said no to the Euro & we were proved right, we said no to Schengen & we were proved right, we said no to EEAS & CSDP & in time we will again be proved right.

        The UK has taken 4 million since Blair opened the floodgates to EU migrants, we have had enough, it doesnt matter where they come from they are all migrants some seeking Asylum from the Eurozone others from ISIS.

        • The Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis were already arriving before Merkel said anything: in fact, their arrival and the deteriorating situation in Syria was what inclined her to make the announcement.

          The Dublin regulation has been suspended by Courts for some time in the case of Greece. Germany partially suspended it in order that Austria and Hungary would not have to accept impossible numbers of refugees. You complaint does not make sense: you don’t want politicians to solve problems?

          The euro is nothing to do with refugees. Your narrow-minded British perspective is your problem. Schengen is also nothing to do with refugees, since the Schengen border code acknowledges the primacy of the 1951 Convention. As do all countries’ constitutions and immigration laws.

          And what the UK chose to do with not following a transitional period for the last EU accession countries is merely an indication of political incompetence. Try blaming the politicians and their advisors who got it wrong: it has nothing to do with refugees. Nothing at all.

          • The Dublin agreement should be maintained but being Germany they ran roughshod over the rules bringing the system to it’s knees now she has put the pressure on to Greece a country she has wrecked by ignoring the fiscal rules of the Euro, they are getting it from both sides. Germany runs an unbalanced trade deficit while imposing their authority on other Eurozone nations. Germany doesn’t abide by the rules of NATO or the UN obligation to spend 0.7% on aid. They protect their services from competition they are a protectionist anti eu state causing chaos by their actions. Merkel needs young educated people they want the rest parcelled out to countries that can’t cope with them.

          • No, Germany is currently siding with the European Commission in support of Greece and very hostile to Austria and Hungary for their unilateral actions. It is not the same as with the euro catastrophe.

            The Dublin Convention was a mistake from the outset in 1990, and was no more than a trick from northern Europe to try to make the southern and eastern parts of the EU pay for managing the external borders of the EU. It is high time it was abolished, as the Commission intended to do, last year.

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