6 March 2015

On 4 March, the European Commission announced plans for a new ‘European Agenda on Migration’. The College of Commissioners identified four main priority areas: “fighting irregular migration and human trafficking more robustly”; “securing Europe’s external borders”; “a strong common asylum system” and “a new European policy on legal migration”.

The Commission expressed its intention to fight smuggling in close cooperation with third countries through existing readmission agreements and cooperation frameworks, such as the Rabat, Khartoum and Budapest processes. ECRE noted that it failed “to make the link that refugees will continue to have to use smugglers because they have no other alternatives to reach safety in Europe.”

Moreover, the Commission said it will assess whether the budget of the EU’s Border Agency Frontex should be increased.

Amnesty International has criticised the Commission for omitting the need to establish an EU search and rescue mission to prevent further deaths at sea, following the closure of Italy’s Operation Mare Nostrum. In January and February alone, 370 people died or went missing in their attempt to reach Europe.

Regarding asylum, the European Commission committed to tackle the divergences in asylum policies across European countries, and make progress in the increased use of resettlement. 

ECRE’s Asylum Information Database (AIDA), which maps asylum procedures, reception conditions and detention in 16 European countries, illustrates the persistent gaps between the theory of a Common European Asylum System where people fleeing similar situations are treated alike, and the harsh realities facing asylum seekers. The research shows that asylum seekers’ access to accommodation; support to meet their basic needs; the grounds and conditions of detention; and access to quality free legal assistance to properly protect their rights remain problematic in a number of EU Member States.

The Jesuit Refugee Service has also remarked that the Commission has regrettably made no mention of finding alternatives to the Dublin system, which determines which European country is responsible for examining an asylum application.

The Commission also envisaged a review of the EU Blue Card Directive regulating migration to the EU of highly skilled workers.

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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 6 March 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.