The EU response to the migrant challenge 

Greece's Hellenic Coast Guard approaches a boat containing 43 Syrian refugees in the Mediterranean sea © UNHCR/Andrew McConnell  

The migration crisis has exposed shortcomings in Europe’s asylum system, compelling the EU into action. Learn about Parliament’s response to the crisis.

In 2015 there were 1.83 million illegal crossings at the EU's external borders. While this number fell to 125,100 in 2020, Parliament has come up with a number of proposals in recent years to remedy shortcomings in the EU’s asylum and migration policy: from reforming the asylum system to strengthening border security and promoting the integration of refugees.

Reinforcing the asylum system and sharing responsibility between EU countries

In response to the refugee crisis in 2015, the European Commission presented proposals to reform the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) in 2016, including a reform of the Dublin System to better allocate asylum applicants among EU countries. However, member states failed to reach an agreement on the proposals how to share responsibility.

On 23 September 2020, the Commission proposed a new a New Pact on Migration and Asylum which sets out improved and faster procedures throughout the EU’s asylum and migration system. The new pact constitutes a revision of the Dublin regulation, which determines the country responsible for processing each asylum claim.

Read more about the New Pact on Migration and Asylum and MEPs’ reaction to it

As well as a reform of the Dublin system, the European Parliament has been working to tighten border controls and improve the ability of member states to track people entering Europe.

During Parliament’s 2014-2019 legislative term, MEPs also worked on clear Europe-wide rules for distinguishing regular migrants from refugees or to ensure fair and equal treatment of asylum-seekers.

Read more about reinforcing the Common European Asylum System

Securing EU external borders and managing migration flows

The refugee influx put enormous pressure on national border authorities. Parliament called for a strengthening of the EU border agency Frontex and in December 2015 the European Commission put forward a proposal for a new 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 was launched in October 2016. There are plans to give the agency a standing corps of 10,000 border guards by 2027.

The new migration and asylum system proposed by the Commission in September 2020 aims to introduce a new system of flexible contributions and make solidarity with EU front line states compulsory when they are “under pressure” from arrivals. The proposal also aims to open up more channels for legal migration, facilitate cooperation with non-EU countries and ensure a faster asylum process at the borders, including swift returns for rejected asylum seekers. The Parliament and member states (Council) will have to find agreement on those new proposals as co-legislators.

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 in July 2021, 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 third-country nationals, and contribute to the fight against irregular migration. The funds should also serve to push member states to share the responsibility of hosting refugees and asylum-seekers more fairly.

Members also backed the creation of a new Integrated Border Management Fund (IBMF) and agreed to allocate €6.24 billion to it. The IBMF should help to enhance EU countries’ 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.

Read our page on EU border control and the management of migrants.

Fostering refugees’ integration in Europe

The EU is also taking steps to help migrants integrate into societies in their new home countries. The 2021-2027 Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund will provide direct funding to local and regional authorities for integration policies and programmes focusing on counselling, education, language and other training such as civic orientation courses and professional guidance.

With the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Commission foresees a new comprehensive action plan on integration and inclusion for 2021-2024.

Parliament is also proactive and has called for more funding for programmes to create new opportunities such as jobs and education for vulnerable groups and refugees in particular.

Read more about the integration of refugees in Europe