EU border controls and managing migration 


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Migrants and refugees waiting at Catania port before being identified by Italian authorities and Frontex. © UNHCR/Francesco Malavolta 

The influx of migrants and the security of external borders is a challenge for Europe. Learn more about how Parliament is tackling the situation.

There were 1.83 million illegal crossings at the EU's external borders in 2015.  This number fell to 150,114 in 2018. The EU response to the migrant crisis includes measures to strengthen EU border controls and deal more efficiently with asylum applications.

MEPs are of the view that the lack of internal border controls in the Schengen area must go hand in hand with compensatory measures to strengthen the external borders. MEPs underlined the severity of the situation in a resolution adopted in April 2016.

Two new agencies: the European Border and Coast Guard and the EU Agency for Asylum

In December 2015, the European Commission put forward a proposal on establishing a European Border and Coast Guard with the aim of reinforcing the management and security of the EU's external borders and supporting national border guards. The new agency, which was launched in October 2016, united Frontex and the national authorities responsible for border management. There are plans to give the agency a standing corps of 10,000 border guards by 2027.

Members have also backed a proposal to strengthen the current European Asylum Support office (EASO), which will become the EU Agency for Asylum. It would be responsible for strengthening cooperation between member states, providing overburdened countries with technical assistance and manpower, and monitoring the fair distribution of refugees among member states.

EU-Turkey agreement

The EU and Turkey came to an agreement in March 2016 on a plan to end the influx of migrants from Turkey to the EU. Both parties agreed to return all new arrivals from Turkey to Greece while Ankara agreed to prevent new land and sea routes. The agreement led to a significant reduction of the numbers of refugees arriving in Greece from Turkey.

Returning migrants more efficiently

The EU is also seeking to make its return policy more efficient for people who cannot be granted the status of refugee or other forms of international protection. The lack of valid travel documents is one of the main obstacles to successful return. As a result, a new standard European travel document for the return of illegal migrants has been created.

A legislative proposal for a common EU list of safe countries of origin is also under examination by the European Parliament. The goal is to facilitate and accelerate the asylum process, including return. Presently such lists are defined at the national level and are not coordinated with other EU countries.

Tackling the root causes of migration

Conflict, persecution, ethnic cleansing, extreme poverty and natural disasters can all be root causes of migration. MEPs want the EU to adopt a long-term strategy to help counteract these factors.

In order to tackle the root causes of migration, an EU scheme aiming to mobilise €44 billion in private investment in neighbouring countries and in Africa was backed by MEPs on 6 July 2017.