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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: 20-09-2016 - 16:45

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?)

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)

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)

Interested in the refugee crisis? Then join our Facebook chat with Parliament Vice-President Sylvie Guillaume and budgets committee chair Jean Arthuis on Wednesday 16 March from 14.00 CET. The two MEPs led delegations to Turkey in February where they visited refugee camps and met political leaders and representatives from NGOs. Find out their findings and ask them about their views during our chat. (Read more: Facebook chat: discuss refugee crisis with expert MEPs Sylvie Guillaume and Jean Arthuis)

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)

Martin Schulz called on member states to step up their efforts to relocate refugees from EU countries faced with a heavy influx. “European solidarity can work if we all commit to it, but not if we let a small number of countries do all the heavy lifting,” the EP President said at an informal meeting of leaders of EU countries in Malta on 12 November. The meeting took place following the Valletta summit on migration to discuss collaboration with other countries. (Read more: Schulz: The refugee crisis can only be tackled if all EU countries commit to dealing with it)

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)

MEPs urged member states to do more to tackle the refugee crisis during a debate on migration on Tuesday. The debate was on the conclusions of the informal European Council on 23 September when national governments agreed to increase funding and support to EU countries looking after the Union's external borders as well as to neighbouring countries and agencies dealing with Syrian refugees. Most MEPs also supported the European Commission proposal to address the crisis. (Read more: Debate: MEPs discuss best approach to refugee crisis)

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)

Europe should focus on saving lives when dealing with migration, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a speech at the European Parliament on 27 May. During the plenary session he called attention to the 1,800 people who drowned while crossing the Mediterranean this year: “Europe has an important role to play and a collective responsibility to act. Saving lives should be the priority.” He also discussed sustainable development and preventing violent extremism. (Read more: Ban Ki-moon on migration: “Saving lives should be the top priority”)

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")

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)

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”)

EU heads of state and government met this Wednesday 23 September to discuss the migration crisis in the EU and, speaking at the start of the European Council, EP President Schulz said that the European Union "is built on de facto solidarity, out of necessity, not romanticism." "The European Parliament will now engage as a matter of priority with the Council on the proposals presented by President Juncker on 9 September, and present its own further proposals, " he said. (Read more: EP President Schulz at the European Council: "Compassion and human decency must motivate our political decisions")

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)

Hundreds of of refugees continue to arrive at Europe's external borders every day. MEPs approved on 9 September a plan to relocate 40,000 migrants from Italy and Greece to other member states. After the vote we talked to Ska Keller, a German member of the Greens/EFA group who is responsible for steering the plan through Parliament, about the refugee crisis and the relocation scheme (Read more: Ska Keller: "We need to create a win-win situation for refugees and the whole of society")

The best way to help Greece and tackling the migration crisis in the Mediterranean were hotly debated by MEPs during the plenary session on 24 June. The debate was held ahead of the European Council on 25-26 June when European leaders will be discussing migration, security and economic governance. (Read more: MEPs debate European Council: migration, security, Greece)

MEPs condemned the violence carried out by the so-called Islamic State, also known as Daesh, and called for more support to help its victims. Because of the continuing conflict 12.2 million Syrians were in need of humanitarian assistance by January 2015. During the debate on the humanitarian crisis in Syria and Iraq on 11 February, MEPs also called for action on EU citizens joining jihadi groups and for more cooperation with other countries. (Read more: Syria and Iraq: “Words are not enough to help the people in this region”)

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)

The international community must deliver on its pledges to step up humanitarian aid and assistance to the millions suffering in the crisis in Iraq and Syria, MEPs urged in a resolution voted on Thursday. They also called on the EU to consider convening a donor conference and stressed the need for a political transition in Syria and an inclusive government in Iraq to cut the ground from under the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Daesh). (Read more: Humanitarian crisis in Iraq and Syria: MEPs call for aid and donor conference)

REF. : 20150831TST91035
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