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Migration: a common challenge - EU in search of response to refugee crisis

Fundamental rights / Immigration / Justice and home affairs / Asylum policy 13-07-2016 - 15:47 / Updated: 17-03-2017 - 09:49

Europe is faced with a significant influx of migrants: hundreds of thousands of people fleeing from war and poverty are travelling to Europe in search of safety and a better life. As the EU searches for the best approach to deal with this unprecedented increase in migration, MEPs press for a comprehensive and fair asylum system. (Read more: Refugees: how should the EU deal with the increase in migration?)

EU border force Frontex, estimates that the number of people landing on Europe's shores fell by two-thirds in 2016. A drop in arrivals on Greece’s islands contrasts however with record numbers of migrants reaching Italy. With over 5,000 people killed or missing, the UN reports that 2016 was the deadliest year ever for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. In meetings with Commission, Council and UNHCR representatives on 12 January, civil liberties committee MEPs shared their views on the crisis. (Read more: Refugee crisis: "The scenes of 2015 must not be repeated")

World Refugee Day is held every year on 20 June in tribute to the people forced to flee their country due to war, conflicts or poverty. Last year alone more than one million people fled to the EU by crossing the Mediterranean. Of these 3,3771 are reported missing or dead. Most of the refugees arriving in Europe - 38% - came from Syria. Check out our infographic to see how the situation evolved in each member state and the EU as a whole from 2011 to 2015. (Read more: World Refugee Day: the situation in Europe)

The influx of irregular migrants continues to pose a challenge to Europe. According to Frontex 13,800 people had to be rescued in the central Mediterranean in the last week of May alone. The EU is working on different ways to manage migration better. The European Commission presented a new plan to address the root causes of migration in plenary on 7 June, which was debated by MEPs. Read on for an overview of upcoming initiatives. (Read more: New initiatives: improving the management and security of EU borders)

Life in a refugee camp can be hard, especially if you are a woman or a child. A delegation from the women's rights committee visited camps and centres for refugees around Athens on 3-4 November to assess their situation. Following the mission we spoke to the head of the delegation Constance Le Grip, a French member of the EPP group. She called on EU countries to live up to their commitment to take in more refugees, especially women and children. (Read more: Le Grip: "Women refugees run the risk of being trafficked and sexually exploited")

This week's EU-Turkey summit which aimed to reach a comprehensive deal on tackling the refugee crisis was debated by MEPs on Wednesday morning. During the keynote debate MEPs stressed that international asylum rules must be respected and also voiced their expectations for next week's EU summit. Some 132,000 people entered Europe by sea in the first two months of this year. (Read more: Plenary: MEPs debate outcome of EU-Turkey summit)

“For the benefit of refugees we need to cooperate with Turkey,” EP President Martin Schulz said following a meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Monday 7 March. They discussed the refugee crisis, border controls, visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens as well as press freedom in Turkey, ahead of a meeting with the EU heads of state and thwe Turkish government in Brussels to discuss measures to stem the flow of migrants. (Read more: Schulz: “For the benefit of refugees we need to cooperate with Turkey”)

Turkey plays a crucial role in the refugee crisis: not only is it hosting more than 2.5 million Syrian refugees but also most of the one million migrants who reached the EU last year passed through the country. MEPs have called on EU countries to deliver on the €3 billion refugee facility for Turkey. As the EU searches for the best approach to tackle the crisis, two delegations from the civil liberties and budgets committees travel to Turkey this week to assess the situation on the ground. (Read more: MEPs visit Turkey to assess response to Syrian refugee crisis)

EP President Martin Schulz travelled today to the Greek island of Lesbos in order to visit a refugee registration and identification centre where almost 2,500 people are recorded on a daily basis. Speaking at the so-called hotspot at Moria, he said: "We must urgently reinforce efforts to complete hotspots. To be effective, however, all member states must take part in the relocation." While in Greece the President also visited Athens for the first relocation of refugees from Greece to Luxembourg. (Read more: Schulz in Lesbos: "People are really running for their lives")

Tackling unemployment and migration are for many Europeans the biggest challenges facing the EU, according to the latest Eurobarometer opinion poll commissioned by Parliament. Nearly two thirds think decisions on migration should be taken at the EU level rather than nationally, while eight out of ten said asylum seekers should be “better distributed among all EU member states”. However, the answers vary considerably from country to country. (Read more: Survey: Two out of every three Europeans want migrant crisis tackled at EU level)

The EU military operation against people smugglers in the Mediterranean is about to enter its next phase. After gathering intelligence and setting up the structure, the operation will now focus on arresting traffickers and disabling smugglers vessel. The details of the operation were discussed by MEPs during a meeting of the security and defence subcommittee on 22 September. (Read more: Refugee crisis: present and future EU military operations in the Mediterranean)

A common response to the current refugee crisis is needed, said Martin Schulz, president of the European Parliament, during a meeting today with French President François Hollande in Paris. "We should welcome refugees," Schulz stressed ahead of the extraordinary European Council on the refugee crisis taking place in Brussels on Wednesday. (Read more: Schulz in Paris: Europe needs to come up with a common response to the refugee crisis)

Parliament backed temporary emergency rules to relocate an initial total of 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU member states over two years in a vote on Wednesday. In the migration debate on Wednesday, most MEPs welcomed the Commission's new proposals outlined by Juncker in his state of the Union speech, stressing that more contributions to solidarity will be needed. (Read more: MEPs approve first emergency rules for distributing asylum seekers in the EU)

The EU should do everything possible to prevent further loss of life at sea, e.g. by expanding the mandate of “Triton” operation in the Mediterranean to include "search and rescue operations at EU level", says a resolution voted by Parliament on Wednesday. MEPs also call for a binding quota for distributing asylum seekers among all EU countries, bigger contributions to resettlement programmes, better cooperation with third countries and tougher measures against people smugglers. (Read more: Migration: Parliament calls for urgent measures to save lives)

The failure to date of the EU asylum system to cope with ever-rising numbers of migrant arrivals calls for a radical overhaul of the so-called Dublin rules, said Civil Liberties Committee MEPs on Wednesday. They propose establishing a central system for collecting and allocating asylum applications. The scheme, which could include a quota for each EU member state, would work on the basis of “hotspots” from which refugees would be distributed. (Read more: MEPs propose a centralised EU system for asylum claims with national quotas)

Is it time for a new approach on migration? Italian S&D member Kashetu Kyenge and Maltese EPP member Roberta Metsola are calling for a comprehensive strategy including having binding targets for resettlement in each member state. MEPs debate and vote on their report on Tuesday 12 April from 8.30 CET. The two MEPs also answered questions about migration posed by our fans on Facebook. Watch the video to see what they had to say on issues such as the refugee crisis and the EU-Turkey agreement. (Read more: Migration: MEPs debate new approach to manage flows of migrants and refugees)

What's involved in reinforcing the EU's external borders? On Wednesday 6 July MEPs approved plans to set up an EU border control system aiming to secure the EU’s external borders and to restore the functioning of the Schengen area. Our Facebook followers had the chance to ask all about it during our live interview with Parliament's lead negotiator Artis Pabriks, a Latvian member of the EPP group. Read on to find out what he had to say and watch the interview. (Read more: EU borders: "No-one is abolishing a member state's responsibility to defend its borders")

A reform of EU migration and asylum policies and procedures needs to include gender-sensitive measures to ensure the safety of women seeking asylum, many of whom travel with young children and other dependents, say MEPs in a resolution voted on Tuesday. (Read more: MEPs call for gender-sensitivity in asylum policy)

With Europe experiencing the largest influx of migrants since World War II, one of the major challenges is how to integrate them into the labour markets. Not only would a job help migrants to provide for themselves, but also to integrate more easily. Parliament's employment committee discussed the opportunities and challenges with experts on Thursday 18 February. Read on to find out what they and MEPs had to say. (Read more: How to make the integration of refugees into the labour market work)

Gülhan was a physics student in Syria when the civil war put paid to her promising future. Now 32 she has already spent four years living at Osmaniye refugee camp in southern Turkey, an existence that has become routine for her and her three young children. The conflict in Syria has resulted in the world's largest humanitarian disaster since World War II and last week two EP delegations led by Sylvie Guillaume and Jean Arthuis visited some of those whose lives have been upturned by the conflict. (Read more: Refugees: MEPs assess the situation on the ground in Turkey)

Migration commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos warned MEPs the refugee crisis was "getting worse" during a meeting organised by the civil liberties committee on 14 January. He said the EU's unity was at stake amid an increase of "populism and nationalism". The commissioner also called on member states to deliver on their own promises and show solidarity to each other: "If Schengen collapses, it will be the beginning of the end of the European project". (Read more: Refugee crisis: "If Schengen collapses, it'll be start of end European project")

“Political grandstanding” that equates refugees with terrorists only foments the hatred and disillusion that inspires those who join terrorist groups, argued many MEPs in Wednesday’s debate. Rather than allow Europe’s freedoms and tolerance to be eroded, EU countries must strive to strengthen security, by stepping up intelligence cooperation and data-sharing, and investing in the skills and technology needed to fight terrorism, MEPs urged. (Read more: Don’t equate refugees with terrorists – boost security instead, urge MEPs )

The real divide revealed by today’s migration challenges to the EU is between “pros”, who want to use the EU to solve these challenges, and “antis”, who want to use them to dissolve the EU, argued many MEPs in Tuesday’s debate. Most deplored EU member states’ slowness to deliver on their pledges to pay for more help for refugees, and more manpower to process them at EU borders. The €2.3 bn shortfall is the same as it was two months ago, noted Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. (Read more: Migration debate: the real divide)

Europe needs a binding permanent system for relocating refugees, EP President Martin Schulz told heads of state and government at the start of a European Council dedicated to migration. “European solidarity is about sharing responsibilities and leaving no-one alone,” he said. The summit on 15-16 October will also deal with the economic and monetary union, the UK’s referendum on the EU as well as Turkey and Syria. (Read more: Schulz on relocating refugees: “European solidarity is about sharing responsibilities”)

The civil liberties committee discusses on Tuesday 22 September new proposals by the European Commission to tackle the refugee crisis. Proposed measures include a permanent relocation mechanism, a common EU list of safe countries of origin and an effective return policy. Ahead of the debate, we asked Parliament’s political groups for their views on the crisis. Watch the debate live on our website on Tuesday from 9.00 CET and check out the main migration routes in the infographic. (Read more: Migration: civil liberties committee to debate Commission plan for permanent relocation scheme)

An emergency proposal to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers from Italy, Greece and Hungary among EU member states was backed by Parliament on Thursday. The first temporary emergency rules for relocating an initial 40,000 over two years from Italy and Greece only were approved by Parliament on 9 September. (Read more: MEPs give go-ahead to relocate an additional 120,000 asylum seekers in the EU)

REF. : 20150831TST91035
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