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The external dimension of the new pact on migration and asylum: A focus on prevention and readmission

07-04-2021

The challenges posed by migration have put EU Member States' solidarity to the test. Responding to a European Council request, in September 2020 the European Commission proposed a new pact on migration and asylum, to reinforce solidarity among the Member States and to strengthen EU migration management and asylum procedures, while also making them more consistent. The proposed pact has an external aspect as well: building on current EU migration partnership frameworks, it aims to reinforce international ...

The challenges posed by migration have put EU Member States' solidarity to the test. Responding to a European Council request, in September 2020 the European Commission proposed a new pact on migration and asylum, to reinforce solidarity among the Member States and to strengthen EU migration management and asylum procedures, while also making them more consistent. The proposed pact has an external aspect as well: building on current EU migration partnership frameworks, it aims to reinforce international partnerships with a view to ensuring effective returns, combating migrant smuggling more effectively, and developing legal migration channels. In the context of migration, the EU's external policy has among its objectives to help third countries tackle the root causes of irregular migration or quests for asylum. The European Parliament often emphasises this point, while warning at the same time that security and migration management concerns should not result in diverting funds from core EU development cooperation objectives. This is also a concern among academia and non-governmental organisations dealing with migration issues: several have pointed out that the Commission's proposals for the above-mentioned pact and the working document, recommendations and legislative proposals accompanying it put a lesser emphasis on pathways to legal migration than on measures aimed at incentivising third countries to retain possible irregular migrants or to accept returns.

Pushbacks at the EU's external borders

08-03-2021

In recent years, the migration policy of the European Union (EU) has focused on strict border controls and the externalisation of migration management through cooperation with third countries. Although states have the right to decide whether to grant non-EU nationals access to their territory, they must do this in accordance with the law and uphold individuals' fundamental rights. Not only do the practices and policies of stopping asylum-seekers and migrants in need of protection at or before they ...

In recent years, the migration policy of the European Union (EU) has focused on strict border controls and the externalisation of migration management through cooperation with third countries. Although states have the right to decide whether to grant non-EU nationals access to their territory, they must do this in accordance with the law and uphold individuals' fundamental rights. Not only do the practices and policies of stopping asylum-seekers and migrants in need of protection at or before they reach the European Union's external borders ('pushbacks') erode EU values as enshrined in the EU Treaties, they may also violate international and European humanitarian and human rights laws. National human rights institutions, international bodies and civil society organisations regularly report cases of pushbacks at the European Union's land and sea borders. According to those reports, pushbacks often involve excessive use of force by EU Member States' authorities and EU agencies operating at external borders, and degrading and inhuman treatment of migrants and their arbitrary detention. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for Member States and EU agencies to comply with fundamental rights in their activities to protect the EU's external borders. Several international organisations and other stakeholders have condemned or filed legal actions against the practice of pushbacks carried out at the EU's external borders. In September 2020, the European Commission presented a pact on migration and asylum, including a proposal on pre-entry screening of third-country nationals at EU external borders, in a bid to address these potential breaches of fundamental rights.

Understanding EU action against migrant smuggling

19-01-2021

Around 90 % of those who cross the external European Union (EU) borders illegally do so with the assistance of migrant smugglers. Furthermore, the facilitation of irregular migration is a highly profitable criminal activity, in particular when compared with the relatively low risks incurred. Even though detections of illegal border crossings are currently at their lowest level since 2013, the migrant smuggling business shows sustained high levels of demand. This demand is not only due to the fact ...

Around 90 % of those who cross the external European Union (EU) borders illegally do so with the assistance of migrant smugglers. Furthermore, the facilitation of irregular migration is a highly profitable criminal activity, in particular when compared with the relatively low risks incurred. Even though detections of illegal border crossings are currently at their lowest level since 2013, the migrant smuggling business shows sustained high levels of demand. This demand is not only due to the fact that people in severe distress – whether for economic reasons or because of a genuine fear for their lives – keep trying to reach the EU, by irregular means if necessary. Demand is also high because illegally crossing borders has become harder, due to increased external border controls and other measures put in place to prevent irregular migration. This is where migrant smuggling networks step in. Migrant smugglers are among some of the most agile criminals. They go to great lengths in order not to get caught, quickly adapting the routes they use to smuggle migrants into the EU and their means of travel. They avoid direct contact with their victims, instead using the latest digital communication technologies and involving different intermediaries along a migrant's journey. The facilitation of irregular migration is a complex crime, interconnected with many other criminal activities, such as document fraud, trafficking in human beings or other types of illicit smuggling. Although people willingly pay smugglers to help them cross borders, they do so at great personal risk. Too many lose their lives, or are at risk of serious harm or exploitation. Therefore, preventing and combatting migrant smuggling and related crimes is one of the key priorities of the EU's action against irregular migration and organised crime. The European Parliament has repeatedly called for more and better operational cooperation, data sharing and legal migration channels, and insisted on better implementation of relevant EU legislation.

Search and rescue in the Mediterranean

12-01-2021

International law imposes an obligation to render assistance to persons and ships in distress at sea, which must be provided regardless of the persons' nationality or status or the circumstances in which they are found. These rules have to be applied without prejudice to the obligations deriving from international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including in particular the prohibition of refoulement. Search and rescue (SAR) and disembarkation activities of EU Member States are ...

International law imposes an obligation to render assistance to persons and ships in distress at sea, which must be provided regardless of the persons' nationality or status or the circumstances in which they are found. These rules have to be applied without prejudice to the obligations deriving from international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including in particular the prohibition of refoulement. Search and rescue (SAR) and disembarkation activities of EU Member States are currently not covered by a common EU legal framework, except for those activities carried out in the context of Frontex-led joint operations at sea. In recent years, a significant proportion of migrants and asylum-seekers in distress at sea have been rescued by EU naval operations, EU agencies and non-governmental organisations in the Mediterranean. Nevertheless, over the last couple of years, the Mediterranean Sea has also been the backdrop for the largest number of casualties and missing people. Lack of coordination in search and rescue activities, solitary action by individual countries and criminalisation of non-governmental organisations active in SAR in the Mediterranean lead to migrants being forced to stay for several days and sometimes weeks on boats. EU Member States and EU agencies (Frontex) have also been accused of pushbacks of asylum-seekers and other migrants to the high seas and towards Libya and Turkey. Individual actors dealing with boats of migrants have been a subject of strong criticism and legal action. Their accountability is, however, not always clear, the reason being varied application and interpretation of different bodies of international law. One solution, proposed by academics, could be the harmonisation of the fragmented legal regime for maritime interceptions.

Screening of third-country nationals at the EU external borders

17-11-2020

In September 2020, the Commission put forward a new pact on migration and asylum, setting out a comprehensive approach to European Union (EU) migration policies that links external borders, asylum, return systems, the Schengen area of free movement and the external dimension of migration. The pact includes a proposal for a new regulation on the screening of third-country nationals at external borders aiming to clarify and streamline the rules on dealing with third-country nationals who are not authorised ...

In September 2020, the Commission put forward a new pact on migration and asylum, setting out a comprehensive approach to European Union (EU) migration policies that links external borders, asylum, return systems, the Schengen area of free movement and the external dimension of migration. The pact includes a proposal for a new regulation on the screening of third-country nationals at external borders aiming to clarify and streamline the rules on dealing with third-country nationals who are not authorised to enter or stay in the EU. The proposal would introduce a pre-entry screening procedure allowing national authorities at external borders to channel irregular third-country nationals to the appropriate procedure, i.e. asylum or return procedures. The screening would start with preliminary health and vulnerability checks and finish with the transmission of a debriefing form to the appropriate authorities. The proposal would provide for the establishment, by each Member State, of an independent monitoring mechanism for fundamental rights. First edition. The 'EU Legislation in Progress' briefings are updated at key stages throughout the legislative procedure.

Plenary round-up – Strasbourg, February 2020

14-02-2020

Highlights of the February session included debates on a review of economic governance; the revised enlargement methodology proposed by the Commission; a breach of Council Decision 2017/2074 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Venezuela; the current situation in Syria; on fighting against antisemitism, racism and hatred across Europe; as well as on the ongoing threat to the rule of law in Poland. Members also adopted a resolution on the illegal trade in companion animals. ...

Highlights of the February session included debates on a review of economic governance; the revised enlargement methodology proposed by the Commission; a breach of Council Decision 2017/2074 concerning restrictive measures in view of the situation in Venezuela; the current situation in Syria; on fighting against antisemitism, racism and hatred across Europe; as well as on the ongoing threat to the rule of law in Poland. Members also adopted a resolution on the illegal trade in companion animals. They debated the state of play in the EU's fight against money laundering (in light of the Luanda Leaks); the humanitarian situation of refugees at EU external borders; and the coronavirus outbreak. Members also voted on a resolution on EU priorities for the 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

European Border and Coast Guard: False and authentic documents online (FADO) system

05-02-2020

In 2018, the Commission adopted a proposal for a new regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG). Among many other elements, the proposal envisaged integrating the False and Authentic Documents Online (FADO) system into the EBCG framework. The co-legislators have already adopted the new EBCG Regulation, but decided to adopt a separate legal act to settle the legal framework of the FADO system. Parliament is expected to vote on the agreement negotiated with Council during the February ...

In 2018, the Commission adopted a proposal for a new regulation on the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG). Among many other elements, the proposal envisaged integrating the False and Authentic Documents Online (FADO) system into the EBCG framework. The co-legislators have already adopted the new EBCG Regulation, but decided to adopt a separate legal act to settle the legal framework of the FADO system. Parliament is expected to vote on the agreement negotiated with Council during the February plenary session.

European borders [What Think Tanks are thinking]

22-11-2019

The European Union helps its Member States to secure their external borders, whilst ensuring an area of free movement without internal borders. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, inter alia, coordinates and organises joint operations with Member States, provides surveillance and risk analysis, and supports cooperation between law enforcement authorities. The EU also helps Member States to fight crimes such as human trafficking, child abuse and smuggling of illegal goods. The issue ...

The European Union helps its Member States to secure their external borders, whilst ensuring an area of free movement without internal borders. Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, inter alia, coordinates and organises joint operations with Member States, provides surveillance and risk analysis, and supports cooperation between law enforcement authorities. The EU also helps Member States to fight crimes such as human trafficking, child abuse and smuggling of illegal goods. The issue of borders is closely linked to EU migration policy, which is being debated with a view to its reform, following the 2015 migration crisis. This note offers links to commentaries and studies by major international think tanks on the issue of borders and some related reports on migration. More papers specifically on migration can be found in earlier items from the same series, published in October and December 2018.

Commitments made at the hearing of Ylva JOHANSSON, Commissioner-designate - Home Affairs

22-11-2019

The commissioner-designate, Ylva Johansson, appeared before the European Parliament on 01 October 2019 to answer MEPs’ questions. During the hearing, she made a number of commitments which are highlighted in this document. These commitments refer to her portfolio, as described in the mission letter sent to her by Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of the European Commission, including: General approach, Common European values, A fresh start on migration and Internal security.

The commissioner-designate, Ylva Johansson, appeared before the European Parliament on 01 October 2019 to answer MEPs’ questions. During the hearing, she made a number of commitments which are highlighted in this document. These commitments refer to her portfolio, as described in the mission letter sent to her by Ursula von der Leyen, President-elect of the European Commission, including: General approach, Common European values, A fresh start on migration and Internal security.

EU policies – Delivering for citizens: Protection of EU external borders

28-06-2019

The unprecedented arrival of refugees and irregular migrants in the EU, which peaked in 2015, exposed a series of deficiencies and gaps in EU policies on external borders. It affected the functioning of the Schengen rules, leading to the re-introduction of border checks by several Member States. In response to these challenges, as well as the surge in terrorist and serious cross-border crime activities, the EU has embarked on a broader process of reform aimed at strengthening its external borders ...

The unprecedented arrival of refugees and irregular migrants in the EU, which peaked in 2015, exposed a series of deficiencies and gaps in EU policies on external borders. It affected the functioning of the Schengen rules, leading to the re-introduction of border checks by several Member States. In response to these challenges, as well as the surge in terrorist and serious cross-border crime activities, the EU has embarked on a broader process of reform aimed at strengthening its external borders by reinforcing the links between border controls and security. On the one hand, measures for protecting the EU's external borders have focused on reinforcing EU border management rules, such as the Schengen Borders Code, and strengthening and upgrading the mandates of relevant EU agencies, such as Frontex, eu-LISA, Europol and EASO. On the other hand, in connection with a number of key shortcomings in the EU's information systems, efforts were made to improve use of the opportunities offered by information systems and technologies for security, criminal records, and border and migration management. This included strengthening existing IT systems (SIS II, VIS, Eurodac, ECRIS-TCN), establishing new ones (ETIAS, Entry/Exit System) and improving their interoperability. The broader mandate and the increase of activities in the area of EU border management is also reflected in the growing amounts, flexibility, and diversity of EU funds, inside and outside the current and future EU budget. This is an update of an earlier briefing issued in advance of the 2019 European elections.

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