EUROPEAN IMMIGRATION POLICY

The European immigration policy is based on solidarity and fair sharing of responsibility among EU Member States, including in financial terms. In fact, the fulfillment of a far-sighted and global migration policy represents a fundamental goal for the European Union. The EU law inserts immigration problems in the broader framework “Freedom, security, justice”.

The 1st point of the article 79 of TFEU, the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, asserts: “The Union shall develop a common immigration policy aimed at ensuring, at all stages, the efficient management of migration flows, fair treatment of third-country nationals residing legally in Member States, and the prevention of, and enhanced measures to combat, illegal immigration and trafficking in human beings”.

REGULAR AND IRREGULAR IMMIGRATION

The immigration policy aims to establish a balanced approach to manage regular immigration and tackle the problem of irregular immigration.

Regarding regular migration, the EU is competent to lay down the conditions governing the entry procedures and legal residence in a Member State for third-country nationals (including for the purposes of family reunification). The Member States retain the right to determine volumes of admission for people coming from third countries looking for a job.

In relation to hindering irregular immigration, the European Union is required to prevent and reduce irregular immigration, for example by means of an effective return policy, according to the fundamental rights.

MIGRATORY FLOWS IN EUROPE, FROM 2015 TO DATE

From 2015 to date, the trend of migratory flows towards the Member States overlooking the Mediterranean has gradually been reduced. This is demonstrated by the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) data, the main organisation for the protection of the rights and welfare of refugees, evacuated and stateless persons

In 2015, the highest peaks of migratory flows have been registered, reaching more than one million migrants. Despite statistics dropped considerably in the following years, the numbers are still too high. The figure recorded in 2018 is around 140,000 migrants, while this year’s figure, until September 2019, is almost 70,000 migrants.

In the summer period there are greater migrations, because the summer months are characterized by better weather conditions. The most affected European countries are those bordering the Mediterranean: Spain, Italy, Malta, Greece and Cyprus.

EUROPEAN AGENDA ON MIGRATION

In May 2015, the European Commission presented the European Agenda on Migration, a document that collects European migration policies in a complex set of measures to tackle the critic situation of the Mediterranean. Within this document, the Commission outlined the initiatives to be implemented, in order to manage the migration phenomenon more effectively.

PRIORITIES IDENTIFIED BY EUROPEAN COMMISSION

After setting the guidelines and the measures to be adopted, the European Commission indicated 5 priorities in the field of asylum and immigration, within a communication on April 2016. The priorities identified were the following:

  • Establishing a sustainable and fair system for determining the Member State responsible for asylum seekers (provision of specific point of entry, implementation of the system with a corrective fairness mechanism, based on a distribution key, sharing of responsibilities between Member States and a fair distribution of asylum seekers). For this purpose, the Commission had proposed the amendment of the Dublin Regulation;
  • Reinforcing the Eurodac system, in order to ease the fight against irregular migration;
  • Achieving greater convergence in the EU asylum system;
  • Preventing secondary movements within the EU, to avoid hindering the normal functioning of the Dublin mechanism by abuse and the multiplication of asylum shopping by applicants and beneficiaries of international protection;
  • A new mandate for the EU’s asylum Agency, amending EASO’s mandate so that EU Commission can play a new policy-implementing role as well as a strengthened operational role and providing sufficient financial resources and legal means for that purpose.

DUBLIN REGULATION

The Dublin Regulation is a convention that establishes the criteria to determine which Member State is responsible for examining an asylum shopping presented by a third-country citizen. This convention ensures a fair division of responsibilities between the member states.

The convention was signed in June 15th 1990 and entered into force in September 1st 1997.

In 2003 the Dublin II regulation was adopted (regulation 2003/343 / EC). In 2013, the Dublin III regulation (2013/604 / EC) was approved, effective in all Member States, with the exception of Denmark.

The system envisaged by this regulation is the following: the first Member State that receives a request for asylum, or that saves the fingerprints of a non-EU citizen, is responsible for a refugee’s asylum request. It has been often argued that the system does not guarantee adequate protection for asylum seekers, above all due to the long time necessary to examine requests and the little importance given to family reunification. Furthermore, it has often been observed that this system involves more pressure for those Member States overlooking the Mediterranean, as they are more exposed to the entry of migrants and refugees.

In November 2017, the European Parliament approved a reform proposal, but it did not succeed. The proposal provided for the overcoming of Dublin criteria and for a mechanism to relocate asylum seekers according to a quota system, in which all EU states should have participated. Moreover, the proposed amendment also introduced some criteria that took into account the asylum seeker’s family and non-family relationships with the Member State in which he or she applied for.

THE EURODAC SYSTEM

The Member States in which the first entry points are located have to identify and register all migrants and take their fingerprints, as well as to repatriate those who do not need protection. The national police identifies and acquires the fingerprints and sends all the information to the Central Unit within the European Commission, to compare them with the data saved in EURODAC.

EURODAC, European Dactyloscopie, is the European database of fingerprints for asylum seekers and for those who enter or stay illegally in the European Union.

This system ensures:

  • greater speed in identifying migrants and in the release of new documents;
  • a more accurate assessment of the escape risk (thus increasing the effectiveness and the speed of repatriation and readmission procedures);
  • greater ease in tracking irregular migrants in EU territory.

EU MISSIONS

The European Union has reinforced the surveillance action at the external borders, with the aim of supporting the Member States most exposed to migratory flows. This European mission is the result of actions dictated above all by humanitarian concerns.

In accordance with applicable international law, for example, specific measures have been implemented to identify and stop any suspect vessels that could be connected to human traders.

The conditions of journeys toward the Mediterranean route are increasingly dangerous. These trips, in fact, are faced by migrants who perfectly know that they are risking their lives. To save these people at risk and fight against migrants smuggling, the Union undertook several actions. For example, in 2016 it established the European Migrant Smuggling Centre, in order to help Member States to restrain the migrant smuggling.

In this context, it is important to remember the reform of the legal framework of Frontex, an Agency of the European Union, established in 2005 and based in Warsaw. It is a specialised and independent body that has the task of coordinating the border control cooperation between Member States. Through the reform, Frontex changes its name, becoming the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and it acquires increased powers. Recently, the European Commission proposed a further strengthening of the Agency, by the establishment of a permanent body with up to 10 thousand border guards until 2020 (term that will be probably extended to 2027).

Therefore, the leitmotiv of the actions undertaken by the Union seems connected to the need of respecting the human rights of all those people who escape from their own country, seeking refuge within the European borders.

FINAL CONSIDERATION

The phenomenon of mass migration is very complex. There can be several causes that drive thousands of people to abandon their countries. Often these are wars and conflicts, but the motivations can also be linked to the job search or problems of political or social discrimination.

The adoption of a single line of action is not easy, because European immigration policy has always been conditioned by national legislation, resulting into unsuitable solutions to deal with a complex and broad phenomenon. The issue of immigration and asylum, instead, should be tackled by a common strategy that faces the issue of security, respecting human rights.

Honouring our international commitments and keeping to respect the fundamental values of the European Union, without neglecting the protection of our borders, implies finding a balance. This balance can be found only through a coordinated intervention at the European level. The European Union should therefore reaffirm its mentoring and monitoring role in in this delicate field.

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