Documents considered by the Committee on 29 November 2017 Contents

18Delivering the EU’s Agenda on Migration

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

Not cleared from scrutiny; further information requested; drawn to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the International Development Committee

Document details

Commission Communication on the Delivery of the European Agenda on Migration

Legal base


Home Office

Document Number

(39068), 12702/17, COM(17) 558

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

18.1More than a million migrants and refugees crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in 2015. In April 2015, the deadliest month, around 1,250 migrants perished at sea.226 The following month the Commission published A European Agenda on Migration which recognised that EU policy in the field of migration had “fallen short”:

“While most Europeans have responded to the plight of the migrants, the reality is that across Europe, there are serious doubts about whether our migration policy is equal to the pressure of thousands of migrants, the need to integrate migrants in our societies, or to the economic demands of a Europe in demographic decline.”227

18.2The Commission asserted that the challenge of migration was too great for Member States to manage on their own:

“Upholding our international commitments and values while securing our borders and at the same time creating the right conditions for Europe’s economic prosperity and societal cohesion is a difficult balancing act that requires coordinated action at the European level.”228

It called for “a set of core measures and a consistent and clear common policy” which would provide the tools needed to tackle the crisis in the Mediterranean and prevent further loss of life as well as establish a longer-term agenda for a “fair, robust and realistic” EU migration policy based on “four pillars”: reducing the incentives for irregular migration, strengthening the EU’s external borders, reforming the EU’s common asylum policy and enhancing legal pathways to the EU.

18.3The Commission has published a series of reports on the implementation of different elements of the European Agenda on Migration, culminating in this latest Communication which takes stock of the progress made since May 2015. It concludes that the EU has a solid framework for implementing structural changes to asylum and migration systems and that its efforts have produced “tangible results”: the number of irregular migrants reaching the EU has fallen, the EU’s external borders are stronger, and there is a greater “spirit of solidarity” with frontline Member States as well as stronger cooperation with external partners in managing migration flows. At the same time, the EU continues to meet its obligations towards those in need of international protection:

“The EU has assumed its global responsibility to provide asylum for an important share of the world’s refugees: in 2016 alone, the EU resettled or granted asylum to over 720,000 refugees, three times as many as Australia, Canada and the United States combined.”229

18.4Despite these efforts, the EU remains at risk of “being trapped in a permanent state of crisis management”.230 The Commission makes clear that “migration will remain a defining issue for the EU for [..] years to come” and that further work is needed to develop a sustainable migration policy that is “robust, realistic and fair”.231 It identifies four priority areas for action: delivering reform of the EU’s common asylum policy to “future-proof” it against further migratory crises; opening up legal pathways to the EU to reduce the incentives for irregular migration; making the returns process more effective; and building deeper and stronger partnerships with countries of origin and transit. The Commission calls on Member States to resettle a further 50,000 refugees in the two years to October 2019, supported by an additional €500 million in EU funding, and to increase their contributions to the EU Trust Fund for Africa.232 It says that, in future, it will publish regular consolidated reports on the progress being made on all aspects of the European Agenda on Migration.

18.5The Immigration Minister (Brandon Lewis) welcomes the Commission’s “helpful and informative” Communication which was considered by the Justice and Home Affairs Ministers in October. He reiterates the Government’s commitment to “playing its full part in addressing migration challenges across the Mediterranean as well as through work further upstream” and says the UK has offered to resettle “at least 5,000 refugees next year under our own existing national schemes”.233 He adds that the UK is “one of the leading resettlement countries in the EU and worldwide having resettled more than a third of all refugees resettled to the EU last year.”

18.6We welcome the Government’s commitment to resettle “at least 5,000 refugees next year”. As this would be based on the UK’s existing national resettlement schemes, we ask the Minister to confirm that the UK would be eligible for EU funding (€10,000 for each resettled individual). Can the Minister tell us why the Government has only pledged for one year? Does he expect a further pledge to follow for 2019? We would also welcome his views on possible UK participation in proposed pilot projects on private sponsorship schemes for refugees, cooperation with third countries to develop legal channels for economic migration, and joint management of returns.

18.7The Minister’s broadly positive assessment of the European Agenda on Migration as a means for delivering “a managed and coordinated EU approach to migration” contrasts starkly with the experience of several non-governmental organisations operating at the sharp end of the EU’s asylum and migration policies. An Oxfam briefing paper published in October says that the EU and Member States have not taken a balanced approach to managing migration:

“Instead they have focused their efforts on reducing irregular migration and increasing border management, with very little attempt to increase options for safe and regular migration, and insufficient concern for the human rights and living conditions of asylum seekers.”

Oxfam expresses concern that the EU’s asylum and migration policies:

18.8In a similar vein, a Save the Children report says current EU policies and practices “are putting children at risk”:

“There are almost no safe and regular routes for migrant and refugee children to reach safety in Europe. Children trapped in Libya face violence, abuse and torture. Thousands of children are stranded alongside adults in overcrowded ‘hotspots’ in Greece. Slow asylum processing procedures are driving children underground and forcing them to undertake dangerous journeys at the hands of smugglers.”235

18.9Given these and other concerns expressed by non-governmental organisations,236 does the Minister consider that the policies and practices developed under the European Agenda on Migration are “robust, realistic and fair” in equal measure and provide a pathway to sustainable solutions to the refugee and migration crisis? How does he envisage UK policies and practices differing post-Brexit?

18.10Pending further information, the Communication remains under scrutiny. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and International Development Committee.

Full details of the documents

Commission Communication on the Delivery of the European Agenda on Migration: (39068), 12702/17, COM(17) 558.


18.11Our predecessors’ Report agreed in July 2015 (and listed at the end of this chapter) provides an overview of the actions set out in the European Agenda on Migration and the then Government’s position.

The Commission Communication

18.12The Commission takes stock of the main actions implemented under the European Agenda on Migration since 2015. It says that the progress made in relocating around 29,000 individuals in need of international protection from Greece and Italy to other Member States demonstrates that “solidarity can work in practice”.237 The EU’s temporary relocation scheme ended in September 2017, but the Commission urges Member States to continue to relocate those who remain eligible (a further 8,000 individuals) and says it will provide financial support.238

18.13The Communication sets out “the next steps” which need to be taken to deliver the European Agenda on Migration, focussing on four priority areas.

Reform of the EU’s common asylum policy

18.14The Commission put forward seven legislative proposals in 2016 to overhaul the EU’s common asylum policy. The reforms are intended to:

18.15The Commission considers asylum reform to be “a key part” of its comprehensive migration strategy:

“For this reform to be successful the system must be crisis-resistant. This requires that unexpected situations can be addressed effectively, that national systems are brought closer together and that mutual trust among Member States is deepened, including with a solidarity mechanism that ensures fair sharing of responsibility.”240

18.16The proposed solidarity mechanism is the most contentious part of the asylum reform package and, in the Commission’s view, offers the only “structural solution” to ensure that the EU has the resilience to manage future crises. It calls for “urgent progress” so that an outline agreement on a reformed common EU asylum system can be reached by the end the year.241

Enhanced legal pathways to the EU

18.17The Commission underlines the need for safe and legal pathways to the EU to provide “alternatives to irregular and dangerous journeys, help to save lives, contribute to reducing irregular migration and alleviate migratory pressure”.242 Two pathways are envisaged: one providing a route for individuals in need of international protection to reach the EU safely through resettlement; the other enabling economic migrants to obtain lawful employment within the EU.

18.18The EU has coordinated two resettlement schemes, the first in July 2015 based on voluntary pledges made by Member States; the second in March 2016 as part of the deal between the EU and Turkey to reduce irregular migration across the Aegean. More than 23,000 individuals have been resettled so far under these schemes, outpacing resettlement in the years before 2015 and, in the Commission’s view, demonstrating “the added value and potential of strengthened EU-level cooperation and coordination”, as well as the incentive power of increased EU funding.243

18.19The Commission has proposed a new EU resettlement framework as part of its asylum reform package which has not yet been agreed. It says that further efforts are needed now to meet global resettlement needs and calls on Member States to resettle at least 50,000 individuals in need of international protection over the next two years (ending in October 2019), focussing on Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon as well as countries on the Central Mediterranean route (Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia). The Commission asks Member States to submit their resettlement pledges by the end of October. It will make available €500 million towards the cost of resettlement (€10,000 for each individual resettled in a Member State). The Commission also encourages Member States to explore other legal avenues for individuals in need of international protection, particularly private sponsorship schemes involving a wider range of civil society actors. It invites the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) to coordinate a pilot project with interested Member States.

18.20The Commission believes that enhancing opportunities for legal migration can also incentivise third countries to reduce irregular migration and cooperate more effectively on return and readmission, whilst also bridging skills gaps in Member States’ labour market. It offers to work with Member States to develop legal channels for economic migration by coordinating and providing financial support for pilot projects with targeted third countries in 2018.244

A more effective policy on returns

18.21The Commission estimates that only around 36% of third country nationals who have been ordered to leave the EU are actually removed. It believes that an effective system of return for those who have no right stay “is the only way Europe will be able to show solidarity with refugees in real need of protection” and discourage “dangerous irregular journeys to the EU”.245 The Commission calls for increased efforts by Member States, supported by “a dedicated, properly equipped and staffed Return Department”—an operational “return hub”—within the European Border and Coast Guard Agency with a remit to take a more “proactive return management approach”. To maintain focus on increasing the pace and rate of returns from the EU, it says the Agency should develop operational plans containing concrete return objectives for each Member State by mid-2018 and may, if necessary, establish “operational antennas in key Member States”.246 The Agency should also design pilot projects to develop and test “innovative solutions for joint management of returns” by exploring the scope for capacity sharing amongst Member States (for example, shared contracting of commercial flights, detention facilities and consular support).247 The Commission intends to monitor performance on returns and provide regular feedback, adding:

“If the fragmentation and most importantly the unsatisfactory return rates continue, there might be a need to explore further convergence.”248

Partnership with third countries

18.22The Commission calls for systematic coordination of external migration policy through the partnership frameworks being developed with key countries of origin and transit, as well as additional investment. It asks Member States to increase their financial support for the EU Trust Fund for Africa (particularly the “North Africa window”) and to ensure sustainable longer-term funding for the EU’s external migration policy beyond 2020 when the Trust Fund expires. The Commission underlines the need to mobilise “all the incentives and leverages available” at EU and national level to encourage cooperation on returns and readmission, including through changes to visa policies where there is “persistent non-cooperation”.249

18.23The Commission expresses support for the UN’s efforts to achieve a political solution in Libya as “only stability and peace can create the long-term conditions necessary to achieve a sustainable management of migratory flows”. The EU will seek to address “the dire situation in migrant detention centres” and respond to the immediate needs of migrants stranded in Libya by:

18.24In addition, working alongside Member States within the United Nations, the EU will use “all its political and diplomatic” weight to achieve an ambitious Global Compact on Migration and on Refugees in 2018.251

The Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum of 17 November 2017

18.25The Minister welcomes the Commission’s “helpful and informative” summary of the progress made in implementing the European Agenda on Migration since May 2015 and its outline of future priorities. He highlights the following areas of new work:

18.26The Minister expresses the Government’s commitment to “playing its full part in addressing migration challenges across the Mediterranean as well as through work further upstream”, adding:

“The Government agrees that a managed and coordinated EU approach to migration is still needed and we continue to support the comprehensive approach envisaged by the European Agenda on Migration. We also agree with the Commission that work should continue to consolidate the positive changes already made to better secure the EU’s external border and deliver on all routes towards the EU. We also see a need to move beyond a crisis response and reinforce our work with transit and source countries as a key part of addressing the root causes of migration and reducing the dangers faced on transit routes.”252

18.27The Minister notes that many of the legislative proposals and policies brought forward by the Commission since May 2015 and discussed in the Communication have been the subject of extensive scrutiny. He continues:

“The Government agrees that continued efforts are needed to ensure effective implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement and Central Mediterranean action plans to control routes into Europe. Our efforts upstream in countries of origin and transit continue, by deepening our international engagement bilaterally or as part of EU dialogues. Our aim is to ensure long-term, sustainable progress by supporting their economic development, which in turn provides real and sustainable opportunities so that people do not need to pay smugglers or risk their lives leaving their home country or moving on from a safe third country. For Africa, the Valletta Action Plan gives us the framework to continue doing this and the Government continues working with international partners through the Khartoum and Rabat Processes linked to EU funded frameworks, as well as through our bilateral engagement, humanitarian aid and joint projects.”253

18.28Turning to future priorities outlined in the Communication, the Minister says that most discussion amongst Member States has focussed on resettlement. Whilst noting that EU schemes have resettled more than 24,000 individuals since 2015, the Commission is concerned that these (voluntary) schemes “lack presence, security, infrastructure and funding” and that there is no permanent EU framework for resettlement.254 The Minister continues:

“Taking these three factors together, the Commission envisages the need for a coordinated EU approach to resettlement, funded by the allocation of 500m Euros made up of current EU budget allocations as well as additional pledges from Member States interested in taking part in the schemes. This would include an EU-Turkey resettlement scheme beyond the end of current planned funding, as well as pilot schemes with other key source and transit countries as a potential way to provide international protection to the most vulnerable as well as effective migration management tools. In principle the Government could support this approach but it remains under development, so we will monitor it closely as we continue delivery of our national schemes.”255

18.29The Minister describes the UK’s “proud history of supporting the most vulnerable and those in need of protection”, adding:

“Our approach has focused on countries as close as possible to refugees’ home countries to deter secondary movements that place the refugees in danger, often at the mercy of criminals. The UK resettled more than 8,500 refugees since scaling up resettlement in September 2015 and is one of the leading resettlement countries in the EU and worldwide having resettled more than a third of all refugees resettled to the EU last year.”256

18.30He says that the UK has responded to the Commission’s request for new resettlement pledges by offering to resettle “at least 5,000 refugees next year under our own existing national schemes”.257 He continues:

“We therefore broadly support the intent behind the Commission’s recommendation—the scale and complexity of the migration crisis calls for this type of creativity—but it is important that any new scheme is implemented and communicated in a way that avoids creating any new pull factors.

“We are also clear that resettlement can only ever be part of a comprehensive solution. We will continue to support and promote wider action which includes improvements to internal asylum processes, border management systems and tackling the organised immigration crime industries that depend on illegal migration. Assisted Voluntary Returns should always be an option irrespective of proposed and existing resettlement schemes.”258

18.31The Minister reminds us that the UK does not participate “in the borders elements of Schengen” and “takes note” of the action proposed by the Commission in 2018 concerning the revision of the Regulation establishing a network of Immigration Liaison Officers, changes to the European Immigration Portal, modernisation of the EU’s common visa policy and further work on law enforcement access to EU immigration data systems. He says the Government will “continue to follow all of these EU developments as part of the comprehensive approach to migration, including how Member States align and complement their work with EU efforts”.259

Previous Committee Reports

None on this document, but see our predecessors’ earlier Report on the Commission Communication, A European Agenda on Migration: Second Report HC 342–ii (2015–16), chapter 1 (21 July 2015). None on this document, but see our predecessors’ earlier Report on the Commission Communication, A European Agenda on Migration: Second Report HC 342–ii (2015–16), chapter 1 (21 July 2015).

226 See the press release issued by the International Organisation for Migration on 5 January 2016.

227 See p.2 of the Commission Communication, A European Agenda on Migration.

228 See p.2 of the Commission Communication, A European Agenda on Migration.

229 See p.2 of the Commission Communication.

230 See p.23 of the Commission Communication.

231 See p.2 and p,17 of the Commission Communication.

232 See the Commission’s press release issued on 27 September 2017.

233 Ibid.

234 See Oxfam’s briefing paper, Beyond ‘Fortress Europe’ published in October 2017.

235 See Save the Children’s report, Keeping Children at the Centre.

236 See also recent reports by Médecins Sans Frontières on violence at EU border crossings (Games of Violence) and on reception conditions at the “hotspot” on the Greek island of Lesbos (A Dramatic Deterioration for Asylum Seekers on Lesbos).

237 See p.5 of the Commission Communication.

238 See the Commission’s fact sheet on relocation.

239 See p.13 of the Commission Communication.

240 See p.17 of the Commission Communication.

241 See pp.17–8 of the Commission Communication.

242 See p.18 of the Commission Communication.

243 See p.15 of the Commission Communication.

244 See the Commission’s fact sheet on ensuring effective legal pathways to Europe.

245 See p.20 of the Commission Communication.

246 See p.20 of the Commission Communication.

247 See the Commission’s fact sheet, Towards an efficient and credible EU return policy.

248 See p.21 of the Commission Communication.

249 See p.22 of the Commission Communication.

250 See p.22 of the Commission Communication.

251 Further details on the process for agreeing the Global Compact for Migration and the Global Compact for Refugees is available from the International Organisation for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency.

252 See para 18 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.

253 See para 20 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.

254 The Minister notes that dedicated funding for the resettlement of Syrians from Turkey under the EU-Turkey deal agreed in March 2016 ends this year.

255 See para 23 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.

256 See para 24 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.

257 Ibid.

258 See paras 25–6 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.

259 See paras 27–8 of the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum.

1 December 2017