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Commission proposes better management of migration to the EU
Yesterday, the Commission presented initiatives for a more structured, comprehensive, rapid-response approach from the EU to the challenges and opportunities of migration, not least in view of the current developments in the Mediterranean. The initiatives cover various aspects of migration, including strengthened border control and Schengen governance, completion of the Common European Asylum System, more targeted legal migration, exchange of best practices for successful integration of migrants, and a strategic approach for relations with third countries on migration. These initiatives come in addition to the urgent short-term measures already taken by the Commission to deal with the migration situation in the Mediterranean and migration pressures on frontline Member States.
"It is clear that the EU needs a strong common asylum and migration policy. This has only become more evident in recent months, in view of the historic events taking place in North Africa. The EU must live up to its vocation to offer a haven to those in need of protection, and at the same time show solidarity both with the countries in North Africa which are currently sheltering the vast bulk of the migrants from Libya, as well as with those of our Member States faced with the greatest influx of migrants arriving by sea. It is also clear that the EU would benefit from some targeted labour immigration in order to help address expected labour shortages in many sectors, and to redress the projected decline in Europe's working age population in the coming years. But migration must at the same time be properly managed – this means ensuring effective border control and the return of irregular migrants. This also means that we should not leave it only up to the Member States at our external borders to deal with extraordinary migratory situations. And this means setting up migration and mobility partnerships with non-EU countries so that we can work together. We must keep these long-term goals in mind also when dealing with the more urgent needs resulting from the turbulence in North Africa", said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs.
Whilst the events in the Southern Mediterranean bring hope for a better life for millions, they have also led to the displacement of over 650.000 people who have had to flee the violence in Libya. Very few asylum seekers have arrived in Europe so far. However, over 25.000 have chosen to seek a better life in the EU. Some EU Member States are more directly exposed to massive arrivals of migrants than others, but this situation can not be handled at the national level alone. It requires the mobilisation of all Members States at the EU level.
"Recent events have also triggered concerns about the functioning of the Schengen system. The free movement of people across European borders is a major achievement which must not be reversed, but rather strengthened. That is why the Commission has already proposed a better evaluation mechanism to ensure that the external borders are effectively controlled. To safeguard the stability of the Schengen area, it may also be necessary to foresee the temporary re-introduction of limited internal border controls under very exceptional circumstances, such as where a part of the external border comes under heavy unexpected pressure", Commissioner Cecilia Malmström notes.
The EU has responded swiftly to these challenges, with the operational and financial tools at its disposal. Funds have been mobilised to manage the humanitarian emergency generated by the sudden inflows of refugees and displaced persons in the countries neighbouring Libya. Together with the funds provided on a bilateral basis, this support has made it possible to offer temporary shelter to refugees and displaced persons, to meet their basic needs and to assist many of them to return to their countries of origin. FRONTEX launched a Joint Operation (EPN Hermes Extension 2011), aimed at helping Italy deal with the situation of migrants and refugees coming to Italian shores. EUROPOL has deployed a team of experts to Italy, to help its law enforcement authorities to identify possible human smugglers among the irregular migrants having reached Italian territory. Those Member States that are most exposed to the growing flows of refugees and irregular migrants have also been assisted financially.
While the EU response to the emergency situation has been comprehensive, the current crisis has exposed the fact that there are still ways in which the EU can better deal with such situations and with migration management generally. Therefore, the Commission is proposing a series of initiatives covering the following aspects:
Completion of the Common European Asylum System by 2012, in line with fundamental values and the Union's international obligations.
Strengthened border control and Schengen governance to address irregular immigration, to ensure that each Member State effectively controls its part of the EU's external borders in line with the rules and the spirit of EU law, and to build trust in the effectiveness of the EU system of migration management.
Better targeted legal migration into the EU to facilitate the immigration of persons with skills needed to assist the EU to fill expected labour and skills shortages and contribute towards redressing the expected decline in its working-age population.
Sharing of best practices in Member States' approaches to the integration of legal immigrants in the EU, in a manner which will ensure that the economic benefits of immigration are maximised, and so as to ensure social harmony in the Union.
A strategic approach to relations with third countries on migration-related issues, aimed at facilitating movement of persons through enhanced legal migration possibilities, combined with measures to prevent irregular migration.
The Commission Communication will serve as a basis for the debate at the extraordinary JHA Council called for 12 May, to be followed by a migration-focused discussion at the 24 June European Council. It will be followed by flanking initiatives in the coming weeks and months, notably a migration 'package' to be submitted to the College for adoption on 24 May.
Since the beginning of the year, there has been a massive displacement of populations from several North African countries, and in particular from Libya. According to the latest estimates, more than 650,000 persons have left the territory of Libya to flee the violence there. These people have found hospitality in neighbouring countries, primarily in Tunisia and Egypt, and many have since managed, or been assisted, to return to their respective home countries.
More than 25,000 migrants, mainly from Tunisia and, to a lesser extent from other African countries, have fled towards the EU, reaching the shores of Italy (most to the Italian island of Lampedusa) and Malta, both of which are now under strong migratory pressure. In addition to displaced people and migrants, a considerable number of refugees of different nationalities, including Somalis, Eritreans and Sudanese, have left Libya, some of whom have also reached Italy and Malta. These events have put the protection and reception systems of some of the EU Member States under increasing strain.
For more information
For more information on the European Commission's response to the migratory flows from North Africa: MEMO/11/226
For more information on the Commission's proposal to establish an evaluation mechanism to verify application of the Schengen acquis: IP/10/1493
Homepage of Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs:
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