Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents

32 Managing the refugee crisis

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the International Development Committee
Document detailsCommission Communication: Managing the refugee crisis: immediate operational, budgetary and legal measures under the European Agenda on Migration
Legal base
DepartmentHome Office
Document Numbers(37119), 12313/15 + ADDs 1-7, COM(15) 490

Summary and Committee's conclusions

32.1 Since the beginning of 2015, more than 500,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean to reach European shores. Nearly 3,000 have lost their lives.[ 187] 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 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.

32.2 The latest Commission Communication reviews the action taken since May to implement the European Agenda on Migration and identifies a range of actions which should be given priority over the next six-month period. These comprise operational measures, budgetary support, implementation of EU law, and new legislative initiatives. The Communication invites EU leaders meeting within the European Council to agree the actions proposed and to implement them with immediate effect.

32.3 The Minister for Countering Extremism (Lord Ahmad) welcomes the Communication, noting that it provides useful information on the timescale envisaged by the Commission for implementing measures set out in its European Agenda on Migration. He makes clear, however, that proposals for new EU legislation or increases in EU budgetary resources will require further careful scrutiny.

32.4 We, too, welcome the information contained in the Communication which provides a useful snapshot of the progress made so far in implementing elements of the Commission's European Agenda on Migration and a clear indication of the measures to be given priority over the next six months.

32.5 The Communication identifies areas in which further EU legislation or increases in EU budgetary resources are likely to be required. We intend to ensure that proposals in these areas, where possible, are subject to careful scrutiny, although recent events have complicated our task. We understand that EU leaders endorsed many of the budgetary proposals contained in the Communication at the informal meeting of the European Council on 23 September convened to discuss the migration crisis, and that the Justice and Home Affairs Council has since agreed a Commission proposal (considered in chapter 3 of this Report) to provide the additional resources needed in 2015 at its meeting on 8 October.

32.6 Although the Communication highlights areas of future EU legislative and budgetary activity, it has no immediate legal or financial implications and we are content to clear it from scrutiny. In doing so, we draw it to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the International Development Committee to inform their consideration of the humanitarian and migration crisis in the Mediterranean and the EU's response.

Full details of the document: Commission Communication: Managing the refugee crisis: immediate operational, budgetary and legal measures under the European Agenda on Migration: (37119), 12313/15 + ADDs 1-7, COM(15) 490.


32.7 The Communication informed discussions amongst EU leaders at a specially convened meeting of the European Council on 23 September to address the migration and refugee crisis. A Statement issued after the meeting invited EU institutions and Member State governments to "work speedily" on the priority actions proposed by the Commission and called for "operational decisions on the most pressing issues" ahead of the European Council meeting on 15/16 October.[ 188] These include:

·  at least an additional ?1 billion to support the work of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the World Food Programme and other agencies in meeting the urgent needs of refugees in the region;

·  a substantial increase in the EU's Regional Trust Fund (the Madad Fund) to help Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey deal with the Syrian refugee crisis

·  a strengthening of dialogue and cooperation with Turkey to stem and manage migratory flows;

·  the use of pre-accession instruments to help Western Balkan countries manage refugee flows, and effective preparation of a conference on the Western Balkans route (8 October);

·  increased funding for the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa which seeks to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacement, and effective preparation of the Valetta Summit involving African countries of origin and transit (11/12 November);

·  additional resources for the EU's external borders agency (Frontex), the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) and Europol, supplemented by personnel and equipment provided by Member States;

·  greater assistance for frontline Member States (to be provided by EU institutions, agencies, and other Member States) to ensure identification, registration and fingerprinting of migrants and to support relocation and returns (the "hotspots" approach, to be implemented at the latest by November 2015);

·  increased resources for the EU's Emergency Fund for Asylum, Migration and Integration and the Internal Security (Borders) Fund;

·   a renewed UN-led international effort to end the conflict in Syria and to support the formation of a government of national unity in Libya; and

·  full implementation of the Dublin Regulation (establishing the Member State responsible for examining individual asylum applications) and other measures forming part of the common European asylum system.

32.8 EU leaders noted that the Commission would present proposals to mobilise the EU budget in support of these priorities which Member States should match with their own contributions.

32.9 Conclusions issued after the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 8/9 October confirm that an agreement was reached to increase the EU budget to support a number of migration-related measures set out in the Commission's draft amending budget no. 7 for 2015 (DAB 7/2015 — considered in chapter 30 of this Report).[ 189] The proposed budgetary increase is subject to approval by the European Parliament.

The Commission Communication

32.10 The Communication describes what has already been achieved since the European Agenda on Migration was published in May. It highlights:

·  the tripling of funding and resources for the EU's search and rescue operations, Poseidon and Triton, in the Mediterranean, with 122,000 lives saved;

·  the launch of EUNAVFOR Med to choke off the supply of ships available to people smugglers and human traffickers;

·  agreement on the relocation from frontline Member States of 160,000 individuals in clear need of international protection;

·  the doubling of emergency funding for the most affected Member States;

·  a commitment to resettle 22,000 refugees from outside the EU;

·  continuing financial support for displaced Syrians within Syria or in neighbouring countries; and

·  an allocation of ?1.8 billion (£1.344 billion) from the EU budget to set up an Emergency Trust Fund for Africa to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacement.

32.11 The Commission emphasises that the actions taken so far are intended to maintain a balance between solidarity and responsibility, adding:

    "That means all Member States must offer support, and it means the Member States under the most pressure must make restoring an orderly process their top priority. Both need to improve if we are to restore stability to the situation."[ 190]

32.12 The Communication identifies priority actions to be implemented over the next six months which are intended to ensure a sustainable resolution of the migration crisis based on "strong borders, fair procedures, and a system able to anticipate problems".[ 191] The operational measures encompass both an internal and external dimension. Their objective is to support Member States experiencing sustained migratory pressures whilst also creating the conditions to enable refugees to stay close to their home countries. The measures envisaged include:

·  full implementation of the relocation scheme;

·  the deployment of Migration Management Support Teams comprising experts provided by Member States and EU Agencies (Frontex, EASO, Europol and Eurojust) in designated "hotspot" areas in Italy and Greece to help identify, screen and register migrants on entry to the EU;

·  the deployment of Rapid Border Intervention Teams (Rabits), if requested by a Member State, to provide immediate support for border management in the event of urgent or exceptional migratory pressure;

·  the use of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism, if activated by a participating country, to mobilise assistance and expertise to respond to a crisis situation;

·  the normalisation of the Schengen free movement area through the phasing out of temporary internal border controls;

·  more intensive diplomatic efforts with countries of origin and transit in the Western Balkans and Africa (starting with the High-level Conference on the Western Balkans route[ 192] in October and the Valletta Summit on Migration[ 193] in November) and more effective operational cooperation with partners outside the EU; and

·  increased support for global efforts to address the refugee crisis through enhanced cooperation with UNHCR, the United Nations Development Programme, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and the Red Cross, and dialogue with key strategic partners and regional players.

32.13 The Communication describes the resources available to deal with the crisis. Despite a doubling of emergency funding in 2015 (to reach ?73 million (£54.5 million)), the EU's Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and Internal Security Fund are exhausted. Resources to support the work of EU Agencies, international organisations and third countries sheltering refugees from Syria are inadequate given the scale of the crisis. To illustrate the extent of the funding gap, the Commission highlights UN estimates indicating that total unmet humanitarian needs for the Syrian crisis amount to ?4 billion in 2015, adding that only 38% of these needs have been met by donors. Given inadequate water supplies, insanitary conditions, risk of disease, shortage of food, and lack of schooling, the Commission observes that "it is hardly surprising if many refugees conclude that the dangers of the journey to Europe no longer outweigh the risks of staying".[ 194] It suggests that the EU and Member States should commit to covering at least half of the current funding gap.

32.14 The Communication identifies the following priority actions for budgetary support over the next six-month period. During 2015:

·  an increase of ?100 million (£ 74.7 million) in emergency funding for the most affected Member States;

·  an increase in the capacity of relevant EU Agencies through the creation of an additional 120 posts in 2015 — 60 for Frontex and 30 each for the EASO and Europol (expected to cost an additional ?1.3 million (£970,000) in 2015);

·  an increase in EU funding for the Regional Trust Fund for Syria (the Madad Fund), to bring the total committed at EU level in 2015 to more than ?500 million (£373 million)— the Commission urges Member States to match EU funding to bring the total to at least ?1 billion; and

·  the mobilisation of ?200 million (£149 million) from the EU's humanitarian aid and civil protection budget in 2015 to provide direct support for refugees through UNHCR and the World Food Programme.

32.15 During 2016, the Commission anticipates the following budgetary needs:

·  an increase of ?600 million (£448 million) in emergency funding for the most affected Member States, and EU Agencies involved in "hotspots"; and

·  an increase of ?300 million (£223.9 million) in humanitarian aid to assist with food and shelter for refugees.

32.16 In addition, the Commission calls for the mobilisation of a further ?17 million (£12.6 million) for Serbia and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and up to ?1 billion for refugee-related action in Turkey during 2015-16. It also urges Member States to restore their funding for the World Food Programme to 2014 levels.

32.17 The Commission highlights existing funding instruments which Member States can draw on, such as EU Structural Funds or the European Fund for the Most Deprived, to support integration measures or the provision of basic needs, such as food and clothing. It encourages Member States to re-programme their existing spending plans to include these objectives. The Commission also points to a broader need for "greater flexibility within the Multiannual Financial Framework to allow the redeployment of scarce financial resources" to priority areas, such as the migration crisis.

32.18 The Communication underlines the importance of implementing existing measures forming part of the common European asylum system, and progressing further towards creating "a truly European system".[ 195] It notes the poor track record in implementing EU asylum and migration law, prompting the Commission to bring infringement proceedings against 19 Member States.[ 196] The Commission suggests that priority should also be given to reinstating Dublin transfers to Greece within six months. These were suspended in 2011 following judgments in the European Court of Human Rights and Court of Justice of the European Union identifying systemic deficiencies in Greece's asylum system which would expose asylum seekers to the risk of inhuman or degrading treatment. The Communication sets out the steps to be taken by Greece to meet its obligations under EU asylum law.

32.19 Further legislative measures are also envisaged during the next six months. They include:

·  a review and reform of the Dublin III Regulation (to be presented by March 2016);

·  the adoption of a proposal to establish a permanent crisis relocation mechanism as part of the Dublin rules (considered in chapter X of this Report);

·  the adoption of a proposal to establish a common EU list of safe countries of origin covering the Western Balkans and Turkey;

·  the full implementation of measures set out in a recently published Action Plan on Return;

·  the development of a fully operational European Border and Coast Guard to strengthen protection at the EU's external borders and respond more rapidly to crises (proposal by December 2015);

·  an updated strategy on human trafficking (by March 2016);

·  a proposal for a structured, EU-wide system of resettlement (by March 2016); and

·  a proposal for the revision of the EU's Blue Card Directive[ 197] providing legal migration opportunities for highly skilled third country nationals (by March 2016).

The Government's Explanatory Memorandum of 30 September 2015

32.20 The Minister (Lord Ahmad) welcomes the Communication, noting that it provides "a useful confirmation of the Commission's proposed timeline" for implementing the package of migration-related measures it has put forward in recent months. The Minister adds that the Government will wish to seek further information on the future budgetary support and legislative measures outlined in the Communication. He expects the information contained in the Communication to inform discussions within the EU and with external partners.

32.21 Turning to the financial implications, the Minister notes that the Commission's aim is to "utilise the existing EU external cooperation budget of ?73.1 billion (£54.6 billion), which has already been agreed and runs to 2020, by re-focusing 2015-16 aid packages, programmes, projects and other work streams".[ 198] He adds that the Commission has also asked Member States to increase their financial support for humanitarian aid.

Previous Committee Reports

None, but our Second Report concerning the Commission Communication, A European Agenda on Migration, is relevant: HC 342-ii (2015-16), chapter 1 (21 July 2015).

187   For the latest data, see the International Organisation for Migration's Missing Migrants update. Back

188   See the Statement issued after the informal meeting of EU Heads of State or Government on 23 September 2015. Back

189   See the Council press release issued on 8 October 2015. Back

190   See p.3 of the Communication. Back

191   See p.4 of the Communication. Back

192   The Conference will seek to stabilise migration via the Western Balkans route. Back

193   The Summit will bring together EU Member States, members of the African Union, and African countries participating in the Rabat and Khartoum processes, as well as UNHCR and the IOM. Back

194   See p.9 of the Communication. Back

195   See p.12 of the Communication. Back

196   Details of the proceedings brought so far are set out in Annex 7 (ADD 7) to the Communication. Back

197   The UK does not take part in this Directive. Back

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

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Prepared 14 October 2015