8 Managing the refugee crisis: a further
|Committee's decision||Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; relevant to the debate recommendation on the Commission Communication, A European Agenda on Migration (decision reported 21 July 2015); drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the International Development Committee
|Document details||Commission Communication: Managing the refugee crisis State of play of the implementation of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration
|Document Numbers||(37190), 13121/15 + ADDs 1-9, COM(15) 510
Summary and Committee's conclusions
8.1 Since the beginning of 2015, the International Organisation
for Migration estimates that more than 760,000 people have crossed
the Mediterranean to reach European shores, and more than 3,400
have lost their lives.
As winter approaches, the number of crossings continues to increase,
exceeding 218,000 in October alone, roughly equivalent to the
total number for 2014. Migration on this scale has exposed weaknesses
in the ability of the EU and Member States to manage migration
effectively whilst also respecting their international obligations
towards those who cannot safely stay in, or be returned to, their
own countries. In May, the Commission published a Communication
setting out A European Agenda on Migration which
proposed a series of actions to address the immediate humanitarian
crisis in the Mediterranean and a range of longer-term measures
to lay the foundations for a "fair, robust and realistic"
EU migration policy. We recommended that the Communication, and
various related measures, should be debated on the floor of the
8.2 In October, we considered a further Commission
Communication reviewing the action taken since May to implement
the European Agenda on Migration and identifying a range
of actions, comprising operational measures, budgetary support,
implementation of EU law, and new legislative initiatives, which
should be given priority over the next six-month period.
8.3 This latest Commission Communication was published
shortly before EU leaders met on 15 October with a view to informing
their discussions on the refugee crisis. It describes the progress
made in implementing actions already agreed and highlights areas
in which further efforts are needed (summarised in an Annex at
the end of this chapter). It also signals the Commission's intention
to put forward proposals, before the end of 2015, to develop "a
fully operational European Border and Coast Guard" to provide
the support needed to restore stability at the EU's external borders
and to "bring the EU's migration system back into an orderly
approach where the rules are properly applied and the system is
robust enough to react to the inevitable peaks in migration".
8.4 The Immigration Minister (James Brokenshire)
welcomes the information provided by the Commission and describes
the contribution being made by the UK.
8.5 The President of the European Council, Donald
Tusk, has convened a further meeting of EU leaders the
fifth since April to take place on 12 November. Its purpose
is to review the progress made in implementing measures already
agreed by the EU and to discuss strengthening controls at the
EU's external borders. The letter of invitation sent to EU leaders
makes clear that "if we are to avoid the worst we must speed
up our actions".
It reflects widespread concern that implementation is lagging
far behind the commitments made previously by EU leaders and justice
and home affairs ministers to address the refugee crisis.
8.6 In her response to an Urgent Question on humanitarian
aid for refugees in Greece and the Balkans on 3 November, the
Secretary of State for International Development (Justine Greening)
said that the UK had committed "nearly £25 million to
support refugees arriving in Europe as well as those on the journey
in north Africa" in addition to £1.1 billion of support
for Syrians remaining in the region.
She announced that the UK would deploy a new ship VOS
Grace to support Frontex efforts in providing search and
rescue facilities in the Mediterranean. She also highlighted UK
support for key international agencies, notably UNHCR, the Red
Cross and the International Organisation for Migration.
8.7 Whilst acknowledging this contribution, we
ask the Minister to provide further information on the Government's
response to the appeals for support contained in the Communication.
In particular, we ask him to explain whether the Government has
provided, or intends to provide, additional support to Frontex
and the European Asylum Support Office, and whether it has notified
the assets it is willing to make available this year to support
refugees under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. We also ask
the Minister whether (and, if so, how much) the UK intends to
contribute to the EU Regional Trust Fund for Syria and the Emergency
Trust Fund for Africa.
8.8 The Minister reiterates the Government's opposition
to the EU's relocation policy. The UK has not opted into the Council
Decisions providing for the relocation from Greece and Italy of
160,000 individuals in clear need of international protection.
We remind him of the commitment he made, during his oral evidence
session with the Committee on 14 October, to provide a note explaining
whether, notwithstanding the UK's opt-out, the UK is making a
financial contribution towards the implementation of the EU's
8.9 We note the Commission's assertion that "key
deficiencies behind the effective suspension of Dublin transfers
[to Greece] are being addressed with reception facilities
being expanded and a return being made to a robust system of asylum
processing" and its intention to assess the situation by
the end of November with a view to reinstating Dublin transfers.
This contrasts with observations published by UNHCR less than
a year ago (before the huge surge in arrivals during 2015) which,
whilst acknowledging that significant improvements had been made,
concluded that Governments should continue to refrain from returning
asylum seekers to Greece. UNHCR highlighted, in particular, inadequacies
in reception facilities, scarce accommodation and insufficient
services to meet the needs of asylum-seekers, especially the most
In light of these concerns, and the scale of the arrivals in Greece
(estimated at more than 600,000 this year),
we ask the Minister whether he considers that it would be appropriate
to resume Dublin transfers to Greece.
8.10 Finally we would welcome some indication
of the Government's view on the Commission's intention to publish
proposals before the end of the year to develop "a fully
operational European Border and Coast Guard".
8.11 Pending the Minister's reply, the Communication
remains under scrutiny. We draw it to the attention of the Home
Affairs Committee and the International Development Committee.
details of the documents:
Commission Communication: Managing
the refugee crisis State of play of the implementation
of the Priority Actions under the European Agenda on Migration:
(37190), 13121/15 + ADDs 1-9, COM(15) 510.
8.12 The Communication informed discussions amongst
EU leaders at a meeting of the European Council on 15 October.
Conclusions were agreed which provided "further orientations"
to guide action in three areas:
cooperation with third countries to address the root causes of
migration and stem migratory flows;
effective management and protection of the EU's external borders;
the EU's response to the influx of refugees, through the creation
of "hotspots" and the implementation of commitments
on relocation and resettlement, and ensuring the return of individuals
with no right to remain in the EU.
The Commission Communication
8.13 The Communication takes stock of the operational
measures agreed so far, encompassing the creation of "hotspots",
relocation, resettlement, and return and readmission, and considers
the progress made in implementing them. It sets out the financial
resources available in 2015 and 2016 to tackle the refugee crisis
and describes the action being taken by the Commission to ensure
the effective implementation of EU asylum laws and strengthen
cooperation with third countries of origin and transit.
8.14 Six hotspots have been identified in Italy.
The first, in Lampedusa, was opened at the end of September. A
further five hotspots have been identified in the Greek islands
of Lesvos, Chios, Samos, Leros and Kos.
All are expected to be operational by the end the year. Hotspots
pinpoint sections of the EU's external border where additional
support, provided by Migration Management Support Teams, is needed
to deal with exceptional migratory pressures. EU Agencies, notably
Frontex, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), Europol and
Eurojust, form the core of the Support Teams, working in close
cooperation with local authorities in the host Member States.
The Teams help to screen and register recent arrivals, identifying
those with clear protection needs who may be eligible for relocation,
and those who should be returned to their country of origin. The
Communication notes that Frontex and EASO have both appealed for
additional personnel and technical equipment, but that the commitments
made by Member States so far "fall far short of the real
Commission urges Member States to respond "positively, concretely
and quickly to these calls".
8.15 Following the agreement reached in September
to relocate 160,000 individuals in clear need of international
protection from Greece and Italy, the Communication notes that
the first relocation of 19 Eritreans from Italy to Sweden took
place in early October, but adds that "relocations now need
to become systematic, routine business in Italy and Greece"
and that "much work is still needed to ensure that a substantial
flow of several hundreds of relocations per month quickly follows".
It says that making the relocation system operational is essential
to establish trust and overcome the reluctance of asylum seekers
to register claims for international protection in frontline Member
States. Since effecting the first relocations, the numbers wishing
to register in Italy has increased. All participating Member States
(the UK has not opted into the crisis relocation mechanism) are
urged to provide the Commission with clear commitments as to the
number of relocated individuals they are able to receive up until
the end of 2015 and to ensure that they have adequate reception
8.16 In July, Member States collectively agreed,
through a mixture of national and multilateral schemes, to resettle
more than 22,000 individuals in clear need of international protection
by the end of 2016.
Resettlement of 132 Syrians from neighbouring countries in the
region has already taken place (Italy has resettled 96, the Czech
Republic 16 and Liechtenstein 20). The Communication asks Member
States to specify how many people they will resettle (and from
where) over the next six months.
RETURN AND READMISSION
8.17 The Communication calls for the frequency of
return operations to be increased in line with the EU Action Plan
on Return, which was endorsed by the Justice and Home Affairs
Council in October, and for existing readmission agreements with
third countries to be applied effectively.
Talks are underway to ensure that returns from Greece to Pakistan
(under an existing EU/Pakistan Readmission Agreement) can be resumed
shortly. The Communication also notes that Member States have
agreed to deploy European Migration Liaison Officers to eleven
key countries of origin and transit by the end of 2015.
OTHER OPERATIONAL SUPPORT MEASURES
8.18 The Communication reminds Member States that
other operational support measures are available but have not
been fully exploited. They include the deployment of Rapid Border
Intervention Teams ("RABITs") at pressure points at
the EU's external border
and the activation of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.
The Commission reiterates an earlier request to Member States
to identify assets which can be held ready to deploy this year
to help refugees. It also notes that assets made available by
Member States to support Operations Triton and Poseidon in the
Mediterranean are still "far short of what is needed".
BUDGETARY SUPPORT MEASURES
8.19 The Communication describes the changes agreed
to the EU budget for 2015, as well as those proposed for the 2016
budget, which would increase the resources available to tackle
the refugee crisis by an additional 1.7 billion (£1.1
billion), bringing the total funding to 9.2 billion (£6.4
billion) in 2015 and 2016. It reminds Member States of the commitments
made by their leaders at the informal European Council meeting
on 23 September to increase their national contributions to the
UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Food Programme (WFP) and
other agencies, and to the EU's Regional Trust Fund for Syria
(the "Madad Fund") and the Emergency Trust Fund for
Africa. The Commission notes that over 80% of the additional funding
requested for UNHCR and WFP has been pledged by only two Member
States the UK and Germany and that a significant
funding shortfall remains for the Trust Funds.
"Financial resources are an indispensable
part of how we can both address the immediate plight of refugees
and start to tackle the root causes. It is imperative that the
shortfall between the needs identified by the European Council
and the reality of what just a few Member States have so far pledged
is swiftly addressed."
IMPLEMENTATION OF EU LAW
8.20 The Communication describes the action taken
by the Commission to ensure the effective application of EU rules
establishing the Common European Asylum System, noting that it
is considering, or has launched, a substantial number of infringement
proceedings concerning Directives on Asylum Procedures, Reception
Conditions and Qualification for international protection, and
the Eurodac Regulation (the UK only participates in the latter).
8.21 Given the substantial resources dedicated to
addressing deficiencies in Greece's asylum system and improving
its reception capacity, the Communication suggests that the barriers
preventing Member States from returning asylum seekers under the
Dublin rules (following rulings by the Court of Justice and the
European Court of Human Rights) have largely been overcome. It
"On this basis, the Commission will assess
the situation by 30 November 2015 and if all conditions are met,
it will recommend to the European Council in December 2015 or
in March 2016 to confirm the reinstatement of Dublin transfers
8.22 The Commission is also contemplating infringement
proceedings in relation to Member States' application of the EU
Return Directive (which does not apply to the UK) and has initiated
"dedicated dialogues" to explain how to meet the obligation
to enforce returns. The Communication notes:
"Member States should ensure the physical
availability of an irregular migrant for return and use detention,
as a legitimate measure of last resort, where it is necessary
to avoid that irregular migrants abscond."
8.23 The Communication notes that the Commission
is concluding its assessment of the reasons given by three Member
States Germany, Austria and Slovenia for prolonging
the period during which they have applied temporary internal border
controls and will be adopting an opinion shortly.
THE EXTERNAL DIMENSION
8.24 Building on its earlier Communication, Addressing
the refugee crisis in Europe: the role of EU external action,
the Commission explains that migration has been placed "at
the centre of bilateral, regional and multilateral dialogue"
and was a "key theme" at the United Nations General
Assembly in September.
It notes that "active discussions" are underway with
Turkey to agree a detailed Action Plan on Migration
and that a High-level Conference on the Eastern Mediterranean
and Western Balkans Route in October agreed a series of practical
steps to foster more effective cooperation. The Valletta Summit
on Migration in November will bring together EU and African partners
and seek to deliver "tangible action to address the root
causes of irregular migration and to ensure orderly, safe, regular
and responsible migration and mobility of people".
8.25 Diplomatic initiatives continue, with the EU
High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy actively
involved in efforts to find a political solution to the crisis
in Libya and the conflict in Syria. Meanwhile, the EU's military
operation in the Southern Mediterranean EUNAVFOR Med Operation
Sophia has moved to its second phase, operating in international
waters to disrupt the business model of people smugglers and human
The Minister's Explanatory Memorandum of 2 November
8.26 The Minister (James Brokenshire) welcomes the
information contained in the Communication, noting that it provides
a useful insight into the progress made so far and the Commission's
plans for further budgetary support and legislation.
8.27 He explains that the appeal to Member States
to honour their existing pledges for financial support and to
provide further resources mirrors that made by UNHCR on 16 October
to increase support for Greece to ensure that it has adequate
reception, registration and screening processes in place. He continues:
"The Government is already providing substantial
support to help countries in Europe and the Western Balkans tackle
the migration crisis, which includes funding through UNHCR, IOM,
and the Red Cross. The UK is also looking to provide further
support (£335,000) on capacity building for border management
and managing migration flows. The UK is also one of the major
donors supporting efforts in Syria and neighbouring countries,
where the vast majority of refugees remain. We have committed
more than £1.1bn our biggest ever response to a humanitarian
crisis. By meeting basic humanitarian needs we are helping more
Syrians stay in their home country or build a life in neighbouring
"Additionally on 13 October, the Government
offered in-kind assistance to the government of the Republic of
Serbia in response to a request channelled through the EU Civil
Protection Mechanism. The UK has despatched blankets, sleeping
bags, and roll mats, which will provide warmth and comfort for
up to 11,000 vulnerable people in Serbia as winter approaches.
"The Government considers the Civil Protection
Mechanism to be one of a number of options for ensuring that assistance
can be provided by the UK to those affected by the migration crisis.
"We continue to play a full part in EU asylum
management, support the work of the EASO and Frontex, support
maritime operations in the Mediterranean, take an active role
in international upstream engagement to address root causes of
migration, as well as work closely with the relevant States to
help tackle organised immigration crime."
8.28 The Minister reiterates the Government's position
that relocation is not the right response to the refugee crisis.
He says that the Government will play close attention to the action
taken by the Commission to ensure that EU laws on asylum and returns
are properly implemented.
Previous Committee Reports
None, but the following Reports concerning the Commission
Communication, A European Agenda on Migration, and the
Commission Communication, Managing the refugee crisis: immediate
operational, budgetary and legal measures under the European Agenda
on Migration are relevant: Second Report HC 342-ii (2015-16),
chapter 1 (21 July 2015); Fifth Report HC 342-v (2015-16), chapter
32 (14 October 2015) and Seventh Report HC 342-vii (2015-16),
chapter 4 (28 October 2015).
50 For the latest data, see the International Organisation
for Migration's Missing Migrants update. Back
See our Second Report HC 342-ii (2015-16), chapter 1 (21 July
See our Fifth Report HC 342-v (2015-16), chapter 32 (14 October
See p.15 of the Communication. Back
Press release issued on 3 November 2015. Back
See Urgent Question, Hansard, 3 November 2015, cols. 876-886. Back
See p.12 of the Communication. Back
See UNHCR observations on the current situation of asylum in Greece,
December 2014. Back
See the latest data contained in the IOM's Mediterranean Update. Back
See the Conclusions agreed by the European Council on 15 October
Further details on the progress made in establishing hotspots
in Greece and Italy can be found in ADDs 2-5 annexed to the Communication. Back
See p.4 of the Communication. Back
See p.3 of the Communication. Back
See p.5 of the Communication. Back
The commitment made by the UK Government in September to resettle
up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over the rest of this Parliament
does not form part of the EU's resettlement effort. Back
See our Sixth Report HC 342-vi (2015-16), chapter 9 (21 October
Neither Greece nor Italy has requested the deployment of RABITs
even though the Commission suggests that the circumstances at
their external borders would warrant it. Back
The Mechanism has been activated twice to assist Hungary and once
to assist Serbia in managing unprecedented migratory flows. Back
Pledges made since 23 September 2015 are set out in ADD 7 annexed
to the Communication. Back
See p.11 of the Communication. Back
Further details are contained in ADD 6 annexed to the Communication.
None of the infringement proceedings concerns the UK. Back
See p.13 of the Communication. Back
See p.12 of the Communication. Back
See p.13 of the Communication and our Sixth Report HC 342-vi (2015-16),
chapter 17 (21 October 2015). Back
See our Sixth Report HC 342-vi (2015-16), chapter 1 (21 October
See p.15 of the Communication. Back