The EU's Global Approach to Migration and Mobility - European Union Committee Contents


The migration of peoples within and into Europe is not a modern phenomenon. It has always existed, and always will exist.

The EU is second only to North America as a destination for international migration. It is estimated that there are 20 million legal migrants living in the EU from third countries. The number of irregular migrants currently living in the EU is, by definition, difficult to estimate but is considered to be between 2-4 million. While the EU receives a relatively large number of asylum-seekers it is home to a relatively small proportion of the world's refugees. Population growth for many European countries is projected to be negative and over the next 50 years the number of foreign-born residents is projected to increase, while Europeans grow older.

Whatever the benefits—economic and cultural—of migration, it has frequently proved controversial. Europe in the early twenty-first century is no exception. The rise of far right political parties in many Member States, which reflect and sometimes stoke fears among the electorate about immigration to Europe from the Islamic world among other things, has provoked policy responses from the more mainstream parties in government. Member State concerns and controversies are invariably reproduced at the EU level.

Therefore, while we believe that the control of immigration from third countries should be, as it is now, the responsibility of individual Member States, we consider that a coordinated approach by the EU and its Member States to deal with the external dimension of migration is not only desirable but also imperative. The Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) appears to provide a good framework for this and its four pillars—on legal migration, irregular migration, asylum and development—are considered in this report.

We concur with the view that the EU's demographic challenges and future labour market needs are likely to require greater flexibility in the handling of legal migration from third countries in order to secure its economic growth and competitiveness. However, we do not consider more migration to be a panacea. The skills of EU citizens also need to be developed alongside necessary labour market reforms. The integration of migrants is also important and we believe that civil society can make a valuable contribution to the formulation and implementation of policies in this area.

Regarding irregular migration, it is important to recognise that the majority of irregular migrants enter the EU with authorisation and then overstay their visas rather than crossing the EU's external border by boat or land routes illegally, as some commentators suggest. With this in mind we believe that Member States and the EU should adopt a more effective approach in preventing irregular migration, including EU Readmission Agreements.

We acknowledge the potential role of Regional Protection Programmes in refugee management and building capacity in the asylum systems of countries of origin and transit, particularly the programme that has been established for Syria. The Joint EU Resettlement Programme is also welcome.

Migration policy cannot and should not be the sole concern of interior ministries and we believe that a more integrated approach with development and foreign affairs—at the national and EU level—would help maximise the EU's development aims. The reduction of trade barriers with non-EU countries and measures to facilitate remittances, mitigate the effects of brain drain and assist diasporas would also be beneficial to development in migrants' countries of origin.

While we welcome the framework provided by the GAMM to tackle the above issues we also believe that its approach is too diffuse. In future it should adopt a more focused approach, concentrating on the EU's geographical and strategic priorities, and accommodating the requirements of the participating Member States.

We believe that Mobility Partnerships have real potential but in order for them to be more effective the existing Partnerships must be properly evaluated from the outset and the potential benefits from prospective ones identified before they are undertaken.

As migration is a global phenomenon we consider it desirable that the Commission has a more prominent role on the international stage, particularly in forums like the Global Forum for Migration and Development, as long as this does not undermine the primary responsibilities of Member States to determine the levels of immigration.

The United Kingdom remains outside the Schengen Area. But the United Kingdom's migration policy cannot and should not be formulated and implemented in a vacuum. So far the United Kingdom has refrained from opting in to the majority of EU legal and irregular migration measures and has started to extricate itself from the Common European Asylum System. We have consistently urged the Government to play a full part in EU asylum and immigration policies and believe that a more constructive accommodation with the Schengen Area could also provide benefits for the United Kingdom. We encourage the Government to opt-in to all EU Readmission Agreements.

The EU's Single Market is predicated on the free movement of its own citizens between Member States. This freedom is fundamental to the United Kingdom's continued membership of the EU.

We also urge the Government to remove international students from their net migration reduction targets. Failure to do so will impair both the quality of the United Kingdom's higher education sector and its ability to compete for talented individuals in an increasingly competitive global market. It will also damage one of its primary invisible exports and the long-terms benefits of fostering international relationships in this area.

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