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The Cost of Non-Europe in Asylum Policy

Written by Wouter van Ballegooij and Cecilia Navarra,

EU Member States have committed to offering protection to those who have to leave their home country to seek safety from persecution or serious harm. Through the ‘Common European Asylum System’ (CEAS), the EU has developed legal and policy instruments for the management of asylum in the EU that apply from the moment someone has lodged an asylum application until the moment the application has been recognised or rejected upon appeal.

Gaps and barriers

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However, there are significant structural weaknesses and shortcomings in the design and implementation of the CEAS and related measures, as exposed by the handling of the relatively high number of asylum applications during recent years. A new cost of non-Europe report maps gaps and barriers in the CEAS and related measures along the stages of the asylum journey from the pre-arrival phase, to the arrival, application and post application phase. The gaps identified arise either from shortcomings in the implementation of EU legislation at national level, or from gaps in current EU legislation or policies, and include:

The report points out that non-compliance with fundamental rights is a concern throughout all stages of the asylum process.


This cost of non-Europe report draws a distinction between impacts at the individual level, due to an inadequate protection of fundamental rights and freedoms, and economic impacts upon Member States and the EU.

Beyond the tragic loss of 8 000 lives in 2016-2017 alone in the Mediterranean, the report uses established methodologies to estimate both the individual impact in terms of fundamental rights protection and the economic costs of gaps and barriers in the CEAS. The cost of the status quo is estimated at approximately €49 billion per year (out of which the estimated cost of lives lost is around €12 billion). This figure includes costs incurred due to irregular migration, lack of accountability in external action, inefficiencies in asylum procedures, poor living conditions and health, and reduced employment prospects that lead to lower generation of tax revenue.

Policy options

This report identifies seven policy options the EU could adopt to tackle the identified gaps and barriers:

  1. introducing EU legislation on humanitarian visas;
  2. further expanding the mandate of the European Asylum Support Office;
  3. improving implementation and monitoring of the CEAS;
  4. taking individual preferences into account when identifying the Member State responsible for examining an asylum application;
  5. fostering access to employment and integration;
  6. ensuring human rights and financial accountability in external funding and returns to third countries; and
  7. EU accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.

The report’s conclusions argue that these policy options would bring about many benefits for EU Member States, including better compliance with international and EU norms and values; lower levels of irregular migration to the EU and costs of border security and surveillance; increased effectiveness and efficiency in the asylum process; faster socio-economic integration of asylum-seekers; increased employment and tax revenues; and reinforced protection of human rights in countries of return. Once the costs are considered, the net benefits of adopting these policy options in the field of asylum would be at least €22.5 billion per year.

Read this study on ‘The Cost of Non-Europe in Asylum Policy‘ on the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

Visit the European Parliament homepage on migration in Europe.

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