15 May 2015

On 13 May, the European Commission presented the new European Migration Agenda. With a shift welcomed by several NGOs, the Commission acknowledged that the “immediate imperative is the duty to protect those in need.” Among other measures, the Commission presented plans to step up search and rescue in the Mediterranean, set up a mechanism to distribute persons in clear of international protection amongst member states and an EU-wide resettlement scheme.

In order to take swift action to face the current situation in the Mediterranean, the Commission intends to triple the budget of the Frontex joint-operations Triton and Poseidon so as to restore the level of intervention previously guaranteed under the Italian Mare Nostrum Operation.

In addition, to address the overstretched reception capacity of coastal member states, the Commission aims to set up a distribution scheme “for persons in clear need of international protection to ensure a fair and balanced participation of all Member States to this common effort.” Such a scheme will be based on member states’ GDP, size of population, unemployment rate, numbers of asylum seekers and of resettled refugees already present in all member states.

With regard to resettlement, the Commission plans to establish an EU resettlement scheme to offer 20,000 places across member states, taking into account their GDP, size of population, unemployment rate, numbers of asylum seekers and of resettled refugees already present in EU member states. According to the Commission’s plan, 50 million euro would be allocated to this resettlement scheme.

UNHCR and IOM have welcomed the new approach taken by the Commission. Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection commented: “The EU’s proposals represent a great breakthrough in terms of managing refugee flows and migration.”

NGOs welcomed in particular the decision to step up search and rescue in the Mediterranean, although, as Amnesty International has pointed out, “the Agenda fails to explicitly make clear how far the operational area of Triton will be extended to ensure that it will cover those areas in the high seas where most refugees’ and migrants’ boats get into difficulties”.

ECRE considers the Commission’s communication to be a welcome step as it refers to a number of measures that constitute a move in the right direction, such as boosting resources to save lives, increasing the number for resettlement places and measures that enhance solidarity. An EU scheme for distributing persons in need of international protection could assist to support member states receiving high numbers of asylum seekers in emergency situations. However, the Commission’s communication lacks details as regards the way in which it would operate in practice. ECRE considers that any such system should take into account family ties or other connection criteria, as well as integration prospects of persons concerned in light of the continuing differences that exist in the Asylum Systems across the EU.

“Solidarity among EU Member States in the approach is the only way that a problem of this nature can be tackled, and UNHCR is enormously pleased to see that this principle has been recognized in the proposals put forward today,” said Volker Türk. “UNHCR stands ready to provide all further help we can to Member States in making these objectives a reality.”

Some member states such as the UK, have already opposed the resettlement plan outlined by the Commission, while others countries have shown their willingness to take in more refugees and asylum seekers. “Ireland has agreed to accept an additional 300 migrants under a new EU plan to tackle the Mediterranean refugee crisis”, reported RTE.

For further information:


This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 15 May 2015. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.