Documents considered by the Committee on 28 March 2018 Contents

8Delivering the EU’s Agenda on Migration

Committee’s assessment

Politically important

Committee’s decision

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

Department

Home Office

Document Number

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

Summary and Committee’s conclusions

8.1The Commission published its European Agenda on Migration at the height of the refugee and migration crisis in 2015. It recognised that EU policy had “fallen short” and that there were “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.”88 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.

8.2In this Communication, published last September, the Commission takes stock of the main actions implemented under the European Agenda on Migration since 2015. It concludes that the EU’s 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. Despite this, the Commission says that the EU remains at risk of “being trapped in a permanent state of crisis management”.89 It 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”.90 The Commission 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. It also 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.91

8.3Responding to the Communication, the then Immigration Minister (Brandon Lewis) reiterated the Government’s commitment to “playing its full part in addressing migration challenges across the Mediterranean as well as through work further upstream” and said the UK had offered to resettle “at least 5,000 refugees next year under our own existing national schemes”. He added that the UK was “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”.92

8.4We welcomed the Government’s commitment to resettle “at least 5,000 refugees next year” (2018). As this would be based on the UK’s existing national resettlement schemes, we asked the Minister to:

8.5We also sought the Minister’s views on UK participation in the pilot projects mooted in the Communication covering private sponsorship schemes for refugees, cooperation with third countries to develop legal channels for economic migration, and joint management of returns.

8.6We noted the Minister’s broadly positive assessment of the European Agenda on Migration as a means for delivering “a managed and coordinated EU approach to migration” but said that it contrasted starkly with the experience of several non-governmental organisations operating at the sharp end of the EU’s asylum and migration policies. We drew attention to an Oxfam briefing paper published last October which concluded that the EU and Member States had “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 expressed concern that the EU’s asylum and migration policies:

8.7In a similar vein, we noted that a Save the Children report considered that current EU policies and practices were “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.”94

8.8Given these and other concerns expressed by non-governmental organisations,95 we asked the Minister whether he considered that the policies and practices developed under the European Agenda on Migration were “robust, realistic and fair” in equal measure and provided a pathway to sustainable solutions to the refugee and migration crisis. We also asked how he envisaged UK policies and practices differing post-Brexit.

8.9The Immigration Minister (Caroline Nokes) considers that the measures developed under the European Agenda on Migration “are part of a balanced and sustainable response to all aspects of migration as a global issue” but will “take time to be delivered”. She says that all funding questions, including UK eligibility for EU resettlement funding, “now form part of the negotiation of the UK’s exit from the EU”. She sets out the Government’s resettlement commitments up to 2020 under the UK’s Vulnerable Persons and Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Schemes.96 Whilst recognising that “the UK and the EU will continue to share a great deal of common interest” in managing migration once the UK leaves the EU, she adds that “the exact nature of our future relationship with the EU on these issues is a matter for negotiation”.

8.10We appreciate that the policies and practices being implemented under the European Agenda on Migration will take time to deliver results and that the challenges are immense. We are nonetheless disappointed that the Minister does not address directly the specific concerns raised by non-governmental organisations operating on the ground and dealing with the real-life consequences of EU asylum and migration policies. Even if the Minister considers that there are few better alternatives to the policy framework developed by the EU in recent years, we believe it is important to acknowledge the limitations and unintended consequences.

8.11Whilst we are content to clear the Communication from scrutiny, we ask the Minister to explain why (drawing on advice from the Treasury and/or the Department for Exiting the European Union as necessary) the question of UK eligibility for EU funding for resettlement during the period while the UK remains a member of the EU should form part of the UK’s exit negotiations. We draw this chapter to the attention of the Home Affairs Committee and the 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.

Background

8.12Our earlier Report (listed at the end of this chapter) provides a detailed overview of the Communication and the priority areas identified by the Commission to deliver on its European Agenda on Migration.

The Minister’s letter of 7 March 2018

8.13We asked the Minister whether she considered that the policies and practices developed under the European Agenda on Migration were “robust, realistic and fair” in equal measure and provided a pathway to sustainable solutions to the refugee and migration crisis. The Minister updates us on developments since the Commission published its Communication last September. She says that the Summit of European Union and African Union leaders held in November sought to address the situation in Libya but also agreed to “move beyond a crisis response”. This was followed by a further meeting of EU leaders in December who endorsed a set of actions contained in a Roadmap prepared by the Commission covering “work in 2018 and beyond”. The Minister continues:

“The Roadmap moves beyond a crisis response and reinforces work with transit and source countries both at an EU level and through complementary bilateral engagement. This work continues efforts to break the business model of organised immigration crime and support third countries to better manage their borders. By reducing illegal migration, we are reducing the number of people suffering through modern slavery and at the hands of organised criminals. The Roadmap also sets in motion medium to longer term aspects of the comprehensive approach, covering in-region opportunities and protection as well as legal migration alternatives. These will take time to be delivered but, when viewed as a whole, are part of a balanced and sustainable response to all aspects of migration as a global issue.

“The UK therefore continues to support this comprehensive approach and we have, alongside our European partners, renewed efforts to stand together as an international community to tackle this issue, building on the new activity amongst African partners.”

8.14Turning to the Government’s position on various pilot projects mooted in the Communication, the Minister indicates that private sponsorship schemes for refugees, cooperation with third countries to develop legal channels for economic migration and joint management of returns largely concern areas of Schengen cooperation in which the UK does not participate. She notes that “the UK does not take part in Schengen visas or the EU Returns Directive” but adds that “we are watching these developments closely”. The UK has implemented a Community Sponsorship scheme for refugee resettlement (in 2016) and is “actively sharing our recent experience with other EU Member States”. She considers that the UK’s bilateral work on coordinated returns can “complement and support our European partners’ efforts”.

8.15We welcomed the Government’s commitment to resettle at least 5,000 refugees in 2018 and asked the Minister whether the UK would be eligible for EU funding, given that resettlement would be based on existing national schemes. The Minister tells us that the Home Office “is working closely with Her Majesty’s Treasury and the Department for Exiting the EU given that EU budget and EU funding issues now form part of the negotiation of the UK’s exit from the EU”.

8.16We asked why the Government had only pledged for one year and whether there would be a further pledge for 2019. The Minister responds:

“The Commission only asks for pledges on a yearly basis. Our pledge to resettle is under our own existing national schemes, which will see the resettlement of 20,000 refugees fleeing Syria under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and up to 3,000 people under the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) by 2020.”

8.17Finally, we asked the Minister whether UK policies and practices in this area were likely to diverge from the EU’s post-Brexit. The Minister tells us:

“As it currently stands, the UK continues to support a comprehensive approach and we have, alongside our European partners, renewed efforts to stand together as an international community to tackle this issue. This is an area where the UK and the EU will continue to share a great deal of common interest after the UK’s exit from the EU. The exact nature of our future relationship with the EU on these issues is a matter for negotiation.”

Previous Committee Reports

Third Report HC 301–iii (2017–19), chapter 18 (29 November 2017).


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

89 See p.23 of the Commission Communication.

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

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

92 See the Minister’s Explanatory Memorandum dated 17 November 2017.

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

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

95 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).

96 See the Government’s press release issued on 22 February 2018 announcing that the UK has resettled over 10,500 refugees under its schemes for vulnerable people.




3 April 2018