EU border controls and managing migration 

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 addressing the situation.

There were 1.83 million illegal crossings at the EU's external borders in 2015. This number dropped to 125,100 in 2020. The EU response to the migrant challenge includes measures to strengthen EU border controls and deal more efficiently with asylum applications.

Strengthening border management and security

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.

Systematic checks at the EU's external borders on everyone entering the Union - including EU citizens - were introduced in April 2017. In October 2017, Parliament backed a common electronic system to speed up checks at the Schengen area’s external borders and to register all non-EU travellers.

Following a vote in Parliament in July 2018, non-EU nationals exempt from visa requirements will have to get authorisation before travelling to the EU.

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.

In a resolution adopted in July 2021, Parliament approved the renewed Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) and agreed to allocate €6.24 billion to it. The new fund should help to enhance member states’ capacities in border management while ensuring fundamental rights are respected. It will also contribute to a common, harmonised visa policy, and introduce protective measures for vulnerable people arriving in Europe, notably unaccompanied children.

The fund will work closely with the new Internal Security Fund (ISF), focusing on tackling terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime. The ISF was also approved by Parliament in July 2021 with a budget of €1.9 billion.

The new EU Agency for Asylum and Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund

On 11 November, 2021, the Parliament backed the transformation of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) into the EU Agency for Asylum, following an agreement with the Council. The revamped agency will help make asylum procedures in EU countries more uniform and faster. Its 500 experts will provide better support to national asylum systems facing a high caseload, making the overall EU migration management system more efficient and sustainable. In addition, the new agency will be in charge of monitoring whether fundamental rights are being respected in the context of international protection procedures and reception conditions in member states.

In a resolution adopted one month later, Parliament approved the renewed Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) budget for 2021-2027, which will increase to €9.88 billion. The new fund should contribute to strengthening the common asylum policy, develop legal migration, in line with member state needs, support the integration of non-EU nationals and contribute to the fight against irregular migration. The funds should also serve to push EU countries to share the responsibility of hosting refugees and asylum-seekers more fairly.

EU-Turkey agreement

The EU and Turkey came to an agreement in March 2016 on a plan to end irregular migration flows from Turkey to the EU. Both parties agreed to ensure improved reception conditions for refugees in Turkey and open up safe and legal channels to Europe for Syrian refugees.

In a report adopted on 19 May 2021, MEPs underlined Turkey’s important role as host to nearly four million refugees, noting that the challenges in addressing this crisis have increased due to the Covid-19 pandemic. They condemned, however, the use of migratory pressure as a tool for political leverage following reports that the country’s authorities encouraged migrants and refugees and asylum seekers with misleading information to take the land route to Europe through Greece.

Returning migrants more efficiently

In September 2016, Parliament approved a Commission proposal for a standard EU travel document to speed up the return of non-EU nationals staying irregularly in the EU without valid passports or identity cards.

The Schengen Information System is also being reinforced to help EU countries with the return of illegally staying non-EU nationals to their country of origin.

In a report adopted in December 2020, MEPs called for the better implementation of the EU Return Directive, urging EU countries to respect fundamental rights and procedural safeguards when applying EU legislation on returns, as well as prioritise voluntary returns.

Tackling the root causes of migration

Conflict, persecution, ethnic cleansing, extreme poverty and natural disasters can all be root causes of migration. In July 2015, MEPs urged 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.