European Scrutiny Committee Contents


4 Migration from the Southern Mediterranean

(32813)

10784/11

COM(11) 292

Commission Communication: A dialogue for migration, mobility and security with the southern Mediterranean countries

Legal base
Document originated24 May 2011
Deposited in Parliament1 June 2011
DepartmentHome Office
Basis of considerationEM of 13 June 2011
Previous Committee ReportNone; but see 10784/11 (32813): chapter 23 of this Report.
To be discussed in Council24 June 2011
Committee's assessmentPolitically important
Committee's decisionFor debate in European Committee B

Background

4.1 In May 2011, the Commission published a Communication on Migration which proposed a framework for developing a comprehensive migration policy to enable the EU and Member States to manage asylum, migration and the mobility of third country nationals within a secure environment.[40] It followed the publication of a Communication in March 2011 proposing a partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean.[41] Both Communications were prompted by the political upheaval in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya and highlighted the importance of developing "mobility partnerships" with southern Mediterranean countries in order to address a broad range of issues, including visa policy and legal migration, readmission of illegal immigrants, and capacity building to improve border management systems and to tackle illegal immigration, human trafficking and other cross-border organised crime.

The Commission's Communication

4.2 This latest Communication describes how the European Union has responded to the challenge of increased migratory flows from the Southern Mediterranean and makes recommendations for further short, medium and long term measures. It proposes a framework for establishing a dialogue on migration, mobility and security, initially with Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt, in order to address the root causes of migratory flows. This dialogue would be based on Mobility Partnerships tailored to the specific needs of each partner country. The Communication will be considered by the European Council on 24 June.

Measures already taken by the European Union

4.3 The Commission notes that the conflict in Libya has so far displaced around 800,000 individuals, mainly to neighbouring countries. Since January, some 35,000 migrants have sought shelter on the Italian island of Lampedusa and in Malta. The Commission says that the EU's response has been swift, comprehensive and effective and includes:

  • the allocation of €40 million (€102 million if Member State contributions are included) for emergency humanitarian assistance;
  • the launch of a FRONTEX operation (Joint Operation Hermes Extension 2011) to help Italy control sea vessels carrying migrants and refugees;
  • the deployment of Europol experts to Italy to help identify possible criminals;
  • the allocation of an additional €25 million from the External Borders and European Refugee Funds to assist Member States most exposed to the influx of migrants and refugees; and
  • concrete proposals to develop a dialogue on migration, mobility and security with southern Mediterranean countries.

4.4 The Commission believes that migratory pressures are unlikely to abate because problems of political instability are compounded by longer-term structural challenges resulting from very high levels of unemployment, especially amongst the young. It therefore advocates the development of "a more structured, sustainable plan . . . based on solidarity between Member States and partnership with relevant third countries."[42]

Proposed short and medium term measures

4.5 The Commission outlines a range of measures which are intended to provide assistance to EU Member States and countries neighbouring Libya and to develop their capacity to manage inflows of migrants and refugees. They include:

  • the provision of funds for humanitarian assistance and for repatriation of individuals fleeing conflict in Libya;
  • making additional technical resources available for FRONTEX operations and increasing the budget for FRONTEX's Surveillance Patrolling Network;
  • rapid adoption of an amending Regulation to strengthen FRONTEX's capabilities,[43] and the conclusion of working arrangements between FRONTEX and competent authorities in Egypt, Morocco, Turkey and Tunisia;
  • the launch of a joint EU-Tunisia operational project to enhance the capacity of the Tunisian authorities to manage migration effectively, while also assisting local authorities in EU Member States to deal with the impact of migratory flows from Tunisia on their local economy and infrastructure;
  • ensuring Member States make full use of available resources under the EU's External Borders, Return, and European Refugee Funds and providing additional resources where needed to support Member States facing an emergency situation;
  • implementing Regional Protection Programmes to assist refugees stranded in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia and making provision for the resettlement of individuals in need of international protection in EU Member States or elsewhere; and
  • rapid adoption of a proposal to establish an EU joint resettlement programme.

4.6 The Commission highlights the need for adequate funding to provide humanitarian assistance and says it will consider whether EU Structural Funds could be used to mitigate the impact of migratory flows on the local economy and infrastructure of peripheral EU regions receiving migrants. In addition to funding, the Commission advocates greater sharing of responsibility amongst Member States. It urges Member States to make available asylum experts to join teams deployed by the European Asylum Support Office to help with the screening of asylum seekers, and to accept the relocation to their own territories of individuals recognised as being in need of international protection.

Proposed longer-term measures

4.7 The Commission says that its Communication proposing a partnership for democracy and shared prosperity with the Southern Mediterranean should help to address the root causes of migration by focussing on job creation, social and economic development and sustainable growth. In addition, the Commission believes that a specific dialogue focussing on migration, mobility and security is needed in order to support and encourage the process of domestic reform in southern Mediterranean countries and to provide carefully managed opportunities for labour migration to EU Member States while maintaining secure borders.

Mobility Partnerships

4.8 The Commission recommends initiating a dialogue with Tunisia, Morocco and Egypt with a view to agreeing comprehensive Mobility Partnerships covering the three "pillars" of the EU's Global Approach to Migration: effective management of legal migration; ensuring that migration has a positive impact on development; and combating irregular migration. The Commission says that the Mobility Partnerships should also include measures to promote respect for the rights of migrants and their integration within host communities.

4.9 Mobility Partnerships should adhere to four general principles:

  • Differentiation — the content of the Partnership should be tailored to the specific situation in each partner country;
  • Bilateralism — each Partnership will be agreed separately, on its own merits;
  • Conditionality — demonstrable efforts and progress must be made in all areas (migration, mobility and security) covered by the Partnership as well as in the area of governance; and
  • Monitoring — there must be an effective mechanism to monitor implementation of the Partnership.

4.10 According to the Commission, capacity building measures will form an essential part of the Mobility Partnerships. So, for example, in the asylum field, these might include measures to help partner countries align their domestic legislation to international standards, including application of the principle of non-refoulement, and to provide durable protection to those in need of international protection. Capacity building measures in the field of legal migration might include better systems for assessing labour market needs in potential destination countries and for organising legal migration, as well as measures to make it easier for migrants to send back remittances and to facilitate their re-integration when they return home. Measures to help combat irregular migration might include improving the quality and security of travel and identity documents, assistance in identifying vulnerable migrants who may be victims of trafficking, and enhanced cooperation on voluntary returns.

4.11 The Commission makes clear that the level of ambition of Mobility Partnerships will depend on the commitment of those Member States interested in participating, but it contemplates a variety of schemes to facilitate labour migration. It also suggests that partner countries should be offered visa facilitation agreements to make it easier for certain categories of migrants, notably students, researchers and business people, to live and work in the EU. However, the Commission adds that increased opportunities for mobility "will depend on the prior fulfilment of a certain number of conditions, aimed at contributing to the creation of a secure environment in which the circulation of the persons would take place through regular channels and in accordance with the agreed modalities."[44]

4.12 These conditions are likely to include:

  • the implementation of voluntary return arrangements and the conclusion of readmission agreements with the EU;
  • the conclusion of a working arrangement with FRONTEX;
  • building capacity on border control and management;
  • cooperating in the joint surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea;
  • cooperating with EU Member States to identify nationals and residents sought for judicial, extradition or readmission purposes; and
  • ratifying and implementing the UN Convention on Transnational Organised Crime (including protocols on trafficking in human beings and the smuggling of migrants).

4.13 In addition to Mobility Partnerships, the Commission encourages EU Member States to consider improving their consular coverage in the Southern Mediterranean, including through the establishment of Common Visa Application Centres.

The Government's response

4.14 The Minister for Immigration (Damian Green) says that the Government broadly welcomes the Communication and supports the move to manage migration and promote stability through the creation of long term strategic and sustainable partnerships with North African states. He continues:

"We agree that this response should be strategic, sustainable and based on a sense of shared responsibility. However, as migration lies in an area of mixed EU competency, we must ensure that this is respected through appropriate representation of the Commission and Member States in all EU dealings with third countries."[45]

4.15 The Minister says that the Government supports many of the proposed short and medium term measures, especially those designed to strengthen border areas that are under most pressure. He adds:

"The Government is committed to working bilaterally, multilaterally and through the EU to help build border controls and protection capacity both in North Africa and within the EU, making best use of EU bodies such as FRONTEX and the European Asylum Support Office."[46]

4.16 While the Government supports the provision of quicker and more flexible funding where needed to address migratory pressures, the Minister notes that "any proposal to provide EU financial assistance should be found through the reprioritisation of existing resources, or the use of emergency funds within existing ceilings, and not through an increase in the overall budget."[47]

4.17 The Minister says that the UK is willing to assist the European Asylum Support Office through the deployment of asylum experts and case workers (and has already done so in Greece) but adds:

"[W]e are opposed to the transfer of migrants to the EU from North Africa and to the relocation to other Member States of those migrants who reach the EU. We believe that building capacity in the region, and in adversely affected EU countries, to deal more effectively with migrants will create a more sustainable solution to this problem. We support the establishment of a Regional Protection Programme to create sustainable solutions for those in genuine need, as close to their region of origin as possible. In the long term, resettlement may form part of the strategic element of such a programme, but should not be used as a reflex reaction to an unfolding situation."[48]

4.18 The Government believes that EU Member States should be encouraged to establish their own resettlement programmes, using funding from the European Refugee Fund, rather than an EU one.

4.19 As regards the Commission's proposals for longer-term measures, the Minister notes that Mobility Partnerships are "broad political agreements" and "do not bind the parties to any particular measure of cooperation agreed under the Partnership." He says that the UK will consider participation in any proposed Mobility Partnership "on a case by case basis" and notes the importance of ensuring that "the legal competencies of Member States are respected."[49]

4.20 The Minister expresses the Government's support for the four principles (differentiation, bilateralism, conditionality and monitoring) which should underpin the Mobility Partnerships. He says the Government agrees that "offers to partner countries on mobility should not be made unless progress had been achieved on tackling irregular migration and progress on migration governance."[50] The Government also supports the emphasis on capacity building, but adds:

"We are keen to ensure that Mobility Partnerships remain balanced, reflecting the needs and priorities of all parties. The prioritisation of facilitating legal migration over the challenge of tackling irregular migration should be avoided."[51]

4.21 The Minister notes that elements of the Mobility Partnership concerning labour mobility "apply only to interested Member States, on the basis of their national legislation and their labour market needs. The UK will continue to apply the Points Based System controls, including migration limit policy, to any labour mobility from North Africa and elsewhere."[52] He endorses the measures (set out above in paragraph 4.12) which the Commission proposes should be a pre-condition for opening up new opportunities for mobility from partner countries, especially those which would "improve our ability to return nationals of these countries that are present in the UK illegally, and which would therefore deter irregular migrants from making the long and potentially dangerous journey to the UK."[53]

4.22 The Minister notes that the Commission encourages EU Member States to consider improving their consular coverage in the Southern Mediterranean, and adds:

"[T]he Government believes that consular protection and consular coverage is an area of Member State competence and there is no role for the EU institutions in defining the assistance that Member States provide or in providing frontline consular assistance. In addition, the Government takes the view that it is not appropriate that the issue of consular coverage is addressed in the context of this Communication."[54]

4.23 The Minister also considers that any proposals for visa facilitation or liberalisation, whilst not directly affecting the UK since it is not part of the Schengen free movement area, "should be carefully considered" because of their potential impact on irregular migration.[55]

4.24 Finally, the Minister says that the Government supports the Commission's proposal to initiate migration dialogues with Tunisia, Egypt and Morocco since "their increasing co-operation as strategic partners of the EU is necessary to create conditions for sustainable management of migratory flows between North Africa and the EU."[56]

Conclusion

4.25 The Communication explains how and why the EU intends to develop a more focussed and sustainable dialogue on migration, mobility and security, while also fleshing out the purpose and content of future Mobility Partnerships between the EU and its southern Mediterranean partners. Although it does not propose any new legislative measures, we think it is of sufficient political importance and interest to merit a debate in European Committee B.






40   See (32735) 9731/11: see HC 428-xxviii (2010-12), chapter 9 (24 May 2011). Back

41   See (32588) 7592/11: see HC 428-xxiii (2010-11), chapter 9 (5 April 2011). Back

42   See p. 4 of the Communication.  Back

43   See (31368) 6898/10: HC 428-xxii (2010-11), chapter 13 (30 March 2011). Back

44   See p. 10 of the Communication.  Back

45   See para 20 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

46   See para 22 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

47   See para 25 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

48   See para 27 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

49   See para 31 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

50   See para 34 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

51   See para 36 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

52   See para 38 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

53   See para 40 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

54   See para 45 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

55   See para 46 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back

56   See para 47 of the Minister's Explanatory Memorandum.  Back


 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 6 July 2011