Reform of the EU Migration and Asylum policy must be based on our fundamentals values

On 28 September, the Justice and Home Affairs Council will convene to discuss the state of play of the current negotiations on the reform of the EU asylum legislation. Ministers will additionally share their perspectives on the international aspect of migration, including collaborating with external partners to address and handle migratory challenges.

The Council of the European Union agreed on a negotiating position on two pieces of procedure in June of this year: the asylum procedure regulation (APR) and the asylum and migration management regulation (AMMR). They are part of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum unveiled in September 2020 which consists of a set of proposals to reform EU migration and asylum rules. The debates on asylum and migration are happening under particularly tense circumstances. This summer, thousands of people died at sea trying to reach the European shores, and two weeks ago, around 8,500 people arrived in the Italian island of Lampedusa – more than the island’s population. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the center on 17 September and acknowledged that the issue was “a European challenge and needs a European answer”. She then laid out a ten-point plan for Lampedusa, which includes supporting Italy to transfer migrants to other EU Member States as well as returning migrants to their countries of origin.

With the goal of stemming irregular migration, the European Commission has also signed a controversial pact with Tunisia in July, including €105 million in EU aid to help clamp down on smuggling operations and strengthen border management. During a plenary session with Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson on 12 September, some European lawmakers accused the European Commission of failing to acknowledge increasing evidence of abusive treatment by Tunisian authorities towards sub-Saharan migrants, including illegal pushbacks, racial hatred, and violations of human rights, while other MEPs defended the EU agreement as crucial to support the EU’s border management.

On 20 September, the European Parliament decided to suspend negotiations on two files included in the EU’s proposed migration pact, namely regarding a European database and the joint screening of arrivals, if EU ministers do not reach an agreement on the Crisis Regulation. This piece of legislation determines how to deal with a sudden large influx of people, as recently happened in Lampedusa. This delay in the talks will slow down the possibility of getting an agreement before the European Parliament elections in June 2024.

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European Movement International’s Position  

As we argue in our policy position entitled “Towards a more effective and human European migration and asylum policy”, migration-related challenges demand comprehensive responses that prioritise the protection of human rights and dignity, as well as coordinated efforts to address the root causes of mass population movement. The core of any policy should be that refugees and asylum seekers are, first and foremost, human beings and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

The increased flow of individuals fleeing war and devastation caused by natural disasters occurring in recent months must not legitimise an erosion of fundamental rights and humanitarian standards – especially not in view of the persistent anti-immigrant populism in the EU and beyond. Any European approach to reduce arrivals to the EU must never be at the expense of ensuring access to protection for those in need. Thus, we urge the EU to refrain from using the EU-Tunisia Memorandum of Understanding as a model for future agreements with other countries and prioritise the establishment of safe pathways for migration instead. To ensure operation within the framework of EU values and human rights, Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, and the frontline staff should receive training, particularly on identifying and assisting vulnerable groups with a special focus on women and unaccompanied minors. Moreover, increased funding should be allocated to civil society organisations (CSOs) operating within the EU and in countries of origin and transit.

Therefore, we call upon the EP and the Council to finalise the negotiation and adoption of a revised, human-centred Pact on Migration and Asylum by the end of the legislative mandate in 2024. Finalising the process will establish a clear mechanism for solidarity and responsibility-sharing among Member States which will prevent burden-shifting, promote a more equitable distribution of responsibilities, discourage secondary movements and establish automatic relocation mechanisms.



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