The last few days MEPs voiced their strong support for Polish citizens who are taking to the streets to fight for rule of law and judges and prosecutors that continue to apply EU law, and called on Polish authorities to listen to and respect them. Next to the LGBT rights were also the rights of those who want to find a better life in Poland and other countries of the EU in discussion. Migratory pressures continue to increase in Greece, Italy and in the Baltic region.
The issue of migration has already been more than once hotly debated at the European Council in Brussels.
Refugee movements and migration
Refugee movements and migration are at the centre of global attention. In recent years, Europe has had to respond to the most severe migratory challenge since the end of the Second World War. The unprecedented arrival of refugees and irregular migrants in the EU, which peaked in 2015, exposed a series of deficiencies and gaps in EU policies on asylum, external borders and migration. In response to these challenges, the EU has embarked on a broader process of reform aimed at rebuilding its asylum and migration policies based on four pillars: reducing the incentives for irregular migration by addressing its root causes, improving returns and dismantling smuggling and trafficking networks; saving lives and securing the external borders; establishing a strong EU asylum policy, and providing more legal pathways for asylum-seekers and more efficient legal channels for regular migrants.
The record migratory flows to the EU witnessed during 2015 and 2016 had subsided by the end of 2017 and 2018. However, in order to deliver what the Commission calls an effective, fair and robust future EU migration policy, the EU, based on the Treaties and other legal and financial instruments, has been implementing both immediate and longer-term measures.
Europe, due to its geographic position and its reputation as an example of stability, generosity and openness against a background of growing international and internal conflicts, climate change and global poverty, is likely to continue to represent an ideal refuge for asylum-seekers and migrants. This is also reflected in the growing amounts, flexibility and diversity of EU funding for migration and asylum policies inside as well as outside the current and future EU budget.
No Wall or Iron Curtain around Europe to solve European migration policy
The President of the EU Commission acknowledged that the Lukashenko regime provides on the borders of the Baltic States a deliberate attack on the European Union, but at the same time stated that Brussels would not allocate funds for the construction of fences to stop the flow of illegal migrants.
The President of Lithuania has announced that signals have also been received about Belarus’ efforts. The Belarussian regime is looking for new ways to transport migrants from the Middle East to the Baltic region. This crisis has shown that, despite the influx of migrants in 2016, Member States do not have a common approach to migration.
Tomas Tobé, Rapporteur on Asylum and Migration Management Regulation talked about that matter on October the 26th of 2021. He opened by agreeing that there is a problem in Europe. He thinks that
it is clear that the European migration policy is not working. It is not working for the migrants. We see people dying in the Mediterranean Sea. We see reports of pushbacks. It is not working for the Member States. We see that there is a lack of solidarity between the Member States and there are very few Member States who actually are active in taking responsibility.
On the other hand, the liberal Guy Verhofstadt, former Prime Minister of Belgium, Member of the European Parliament says:
“There is no European migration policy. This remains the exclusive competence of the 27 Member States. At my first European Council, which I attended many years ago, in 1999, we agreed at the time that migration policy was a European competence, but we are still not there. The problems that exist in your country and elsewhere can only be solved if there is a single migration policy, not 27 different policies. ”
Providing an impactful solidarity
Tomas Tobé is aware that we can see a lack of trust in many countries that Europe is not delivering on migration. But for him it is important that we find a way forward, the EU has had a political deadlock for a long time, we need now to find a way to move forward.
I think that we should do that in a spirit of mutual trust and also that we can provide an impactful solidarity and that this overall makes sure that we can break the deadlock, that we can come together in the European Parliament who always have stand ready to negotiate with the Member States, but that we now also can see some progress in the Council. The Commission’s proposal was presented, as you know. And in my proposal, I make more than 160 changes and I will not go through them all at this press conference, of course.
Tobé thinks it is clear that we do need to have strong tools when it comes to what we should do when we have people arriving to Europe. But we also need to make sure that we have an opportunity for Member States and especially the frontline Member States. He wants to give an opportunity for the Member States to say we are at risk of migratory pressure earlier and that will make sure that the Commission needs to act. He said:
I will also propose that the Commission will have to present a five year strategy on migration management.
This is something that we should evaluate every year and they should also be reported to this house through the European Parliament. I also would like to strengthen the cooperation with third countries. I think it is clear that we need to have a strong solidarity to help the people that are in need of protection, like refugees.
Avoiding shattered dreams and broken families
At the moment we are facing about 30 percent of the refugees entering Europe returning to where they came from. Often it is because they find their dreams shattered, Europe not being such heaven on earth like they thought or imagined it to be. Tobé would love to see that changed at the same time to make sure that we can do that in a spirit of cooperation with third countries outside of Europe. He has good reason to believe that prevention is a first key message, because the European Union should make more work of preventing people wanting to come to our regions and wanting to give so much money to people smugglers. I am convinced that by using more visual material and some good information about the negative elements are for leaving the home country in exchange for a dream which perhaps can not be realised so far away from other family members and the heimat.
By informing people in third countries about the dangers and other negative aspects of leaving the homeland, we shall be able to avoid such an exodus from Third World countries to try the big crossing to Europe.
In the East of Europe we also see a very bad evolution, member states going in their own direction. They are going away from a European solution, neglecting European laws, like the protection of people and many freedom rights.
We need to find a pragmatic approach to find something that could be acceptable for everyone.
says Tobé, who adds that for him,
it is clear that if we move away from mandatory relocation, then we have to make sure that we have impactful solidarity for the frontline Member States. When it comes to solidarity measures that have been introduced by the Commission, they have introduced two separate solidarity measures. I want them combined in one.
Since we know that returns are not working today we need to find a way to also have Member States contributing to returns being more effective and also we need more capacity building. But let me be very clear: capacity building and economic support cannot be an easy way out to opt out from the European migration policy.
Necessary solidarity for the asylum seekers
Strangely enough, he does not bring to the forefront that there should be more solidarity by taking in and providing lodgings for the asylum seekers. I had hoped he would also have looked at the frenzied hope of escaping violence, hunger or miserable conditions of those who try to enter Europe. We also can not leave the European border countries tackling those floods of people who want to immigrate in our Union.
Support to third-party countries has to be given to reduce migratory pressure at the bloc’s borders. In June the EU members promised to intensify
“mutually beneficial partnerships and cooperation with countries of origin and transit”
“prevent loss of life and to reduce pressure on European borders.”
We may not close our eyes to countries that allow people from the South to be used as cattle and to be exposed to horrific levels of violence, including kidnapping. We know about the horror, many of the vast majority of people attempting the Mediterranean crossing, passing through Libya. Such pass-through countries, like Lybia and Turkey should do more against the torture and extortion those emigrating people have to endure.
People in Libya are also often detained in detention centres, usually in horrendous conditions – and those in detention, for example, in Tripoli have been trapped in the ongoing conflict in the city, with some centres having been caught in airstrikes, with people unable to escape, and then killed or injured.
The last decades European attempts to stem migration by strengthening national borders and bolstering detention facilities outside its borders have been pushing people into smugglers hands to get them past checkpoints, across borders, through fences, out of prisons and ultimately onto boats on the Mediterranean Sea.
Horribly enough, for those people who do make it to Europe, the challenges – and dangers faced – start again once onshore. Those who are caught are, if not sent back, being forced to live in unhygienic conditions. A lot of asylum seekers struggle to find their way in adverse weather, treacherous border crossings, hostile authorities, and do not only become desperate but in these circumstances, many also become sick, injured, or struggle with mental health issues. Lots of children just do not survive the crossing.
Instead of confronting the vicious cycle that their own policies are creating, politicians have hidden behind unfounded accusations towards NGOs and individuals who attempt to help people in dire straits.
The EU must help member states at the external borders more, to manage migration flows and ensure that those seeking protection are welcomed in line with its core values, but also that there is a quicker flow to other countries so that the intake is better distributed all over the European Union. It was already a step in the good direction to have unaccompanied minors from the Greek islands transferred to other EU countries. Some requested that relocation should also apply to other vulnerable asylum-seekers and to families.
EU Blue Card
MEPs underlined that solidarity with frontline countries is key and that migration should not be used for political purposes. In September 2021 they adopted the reform of the Blue Card Directive, in place since late 2009, the EU Blue Card to facilitate the employment of highly qualified non-EU nationals and help alleviate labour shortages in key sectors. Originally proposed by the Commission in 2016, this will be the only legislative change at EU level in the field of legal labour migration in recent years. However, the scheme has not attracted enough of these much-needed workers, with only 36 806 Blue Cards issued in the EU in 2019 (and Germany issuing most of them).
Irregular and regular immigration
The European Parliament is actively involved, in the adoption of new laws on irregular and regular immigration. It is a full co-legislator together with the Council representing member states on these matters since the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.
It can not be brought up that Europe has had to respond to the most severe migratory challenge since the end of the Second World War. The unprecedented arrival of refugees and irregular migrants in the EU, which peaked in 2015, exposed a series of deficiencies and gaps in EU policies on asylum, external borders and migration. Already six years have passed and there is still no reasonable solution.
Respecting Geneva Convention
The European Union should put much more pressure on the countries around the Union and in the Union, for the need to respect the Geneva Convention and to offer protection to refugees. Politicians should also be aware that the allegations about police violence against people attempting to cross the border and the risk that jihadists could be entering EU territory are a fact we cannot ignore. Several video footage proves how member states of the Union act horrible and exceed all the laws of human rights.
EU external borders and migration policies
The member states of the European Union (EU), including Latvia, have addressed a single letter to the European Commission with a request to strengthen the bloc’s external borders. Members of Parliament must have the courage to put their finger on the wound and tackle the pusillanimous elements of our society.
There has been talk of a common European Union migration policy since the late 1990s, but today, more than 20 years later, we are finding that there are as many migration policies as there are flags here at the European Parliament building.
Fabienne Keller (Renew, FR), Rapporteur on the draft report on Amended Asylum Procedure, assures:
Now on deadlines. The Commission has suggested 12 weeks for asylum procedures and 12 weeks to manage returns, and I support this timeline. I would like to see a more effective, more efficient procedure. We wish to move away from the mistakes of the past. Leaving people to have to take refuge in camps such as Moria, an example of what not to do on the Mediterranean coast.
When it comes to the implementation of this particular regulation on centres at the border she proposes that these centres would be entirely to be financed by the EU budget in order to provide tangible support to frontline countries. She also wishes to enable member states, frontline states, to set up these centres wherever they wish on their territory, not necessarily the physical external border.
And this may enable us to have more competent staff and essential services that will be made more accessible to those living in these camps.
Right of initiative
There are some agencies in the EU, in particular Frontex and the Asylum agency, who should receive a more specific mandate.
In particular, we’d like to see tangible solidarity means with, for instance, additional human support when there are large arrivals of migrants. And we would also like these agencies to have a right of initiative. This would mean that they would be able to respond swiftly were there to be a significant arrival at the point of entry to the European Union.
Now, when it comes to the staff and the means for border procedures. All of this depends on resources and in particular, human resources. As I have just said, I suggest that we make better use of human resources working for these agencies. We would also like the Commission to specify the human and material means necessary for these procedures, the type of staff, the training they ought to undergo, the number of staff thought to be available. And we were able to see this working in a simulation set up by the Commission and EASO setting out the number of staff members, the places where they ought to be working. And simulations like these are useful for us to have a better understanding of the kind of conditions people would expect. And we would like to see cooperation and coordination amongst all relevant stakeholders on this.
Detention & Returns
Keller has asked that the member states set up specific programmes for voluntary returns with suitable support in terms of resources that can be provided. She says:
Now, when it comes to respecting fundamental rights, which is due to the parliament’s heart, we ought to clarify rules on detention and deprivation of liberty.
Border centres have the possibility of refusing people entry onto national territory, so ask the Commission to clarify the rules around the detention that may take place, and these rules ought to be used only as a last resort. Still on fundamental rights, a further proposal urging member states to develop alternatives to deprivation of liberty, including an independent follow up mechanism on the implementation of the rules and the respect and upholding of fundamental rights. And I will be presenting this report to the Committee later on to hear from my colleagues. Since we wish to take a constructive approach working together, in order to move this package forward on asylum and migration.
We only can hope that those politicians making decisions shall take into full consideration that we talk here about the way children and young people are treated. Our eyes and heart should be on them when we and the MPs talk about conditions for deprivation of liberty and other cross-cutting themes.
Fabienne Keller lets us believe that
And we have a shared will to move forward together on this file. This is a file that Europeans want to see us move forward on. They want progress to be made.
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