Chapter 4: irregular migration and trafficking
in human beings |
72. The GAMM states that "the legitimacy
of any migration and mobility framework depends on effectively
addressing irregular migration
Intra-EU cooperation is
essential, and so is the goal of reinforcing partnerships with
non-EU countries". Therefore, the second pillar of the GAMM
focuses on "preventing and reducing irregular migration and
trafficking in human beings".
Irregular migration and the GAMM
73. When the Global Approach to Migration was
originally adopted in 2005, irregular migration was at the top
of the European Council's agenda. Irregular migration remains
one of the thematic priorities of the revised GAMM but is now
presented as one of "four equally important pillars".
There was disagreement among our witnesses about whether the GAMM
did, and whether it should, give equal weighting to each of the
pillars. The Government considered that the prevention and reduction
of irregular immigration was a key aspect of the GAMM but Charles
Clarke, who was Home Secretary when the UK Presidency first proposed
the Global Approach, thought that the revised GAMM attached insufficient
importance to irregular migration. He told us that "the second
pillar ... is more important than any of the other three because
it is the area which gives rise ... to the greatest doubts and
uncertainties in the population about where we stand".
74. Other witnesses were very critical of what
they saw as the over-emphasis placed on irregular migration compared
to the other three pillars, believing that this undermined the
success of the GAMM and limited the desire for third countries
to cooperate with the EU in this area. Professor Boswell
considered that the GAMM was dominated by home affairs considerations.
In her view "the underlying and more or less explicit concern
is to try to offer more incentives to cajole third countries
into accepting measures to reinforce border control and, in particular,
to encourage them to sign and implement Readmission Agreements".
The Migrant Rights' Network thought this pillar was poorly defined
and undermined the success of dialogues and partnerships with
third countries by creating a negative starting point and failing
to take account of the positive benefits of migration.
Claude Moraes MEP was critical of the tendency of EU level policies
to emphasise what he called "the hard side
and control" to the detriment of "the soft side",
such as discussions about demographics, what kind of immigration
countries want and integration. He considered that this imbalance
occurred because Member State governments tended to look to the
EU for control solutions"some more boats in the Mediterranean"but
due to national political sensitivities were extremely reluctant
to consider the facilitation of migration at the European level.
Ultimately, Bernd Hemingway concluded that "the best way
to fight irregular migration is to ensure that there is a fair
share of legal migration". He cited the case of Italy's quota
for Tunisian immigrants which "more or less stopped"
irregular migration from Tunisia to Libya.
75. Tackling irregular migration is one of the
most developed aspects of EU migration policy in legislative and
especially operational terms. Unlike legal migration, where Member
States' divergent needs and resistance to transfers of sovereignty
have constrained EU action, in the area of irregular migration,
where governments share more common interests, there has been
more progress. Existing EU legislation on irregular migration
includes the Returns Directive and the Employer Sanctions Directive.
The Government did not opt-in to either Directive. This Committee
recommended that the Government should have opted-in to the Returns
External border controls and
tackling irregular migration
76. The GAMM states that "the EU should
continue to give priority to transfers of skills, capacity and
resources to its partners, in order to prevent and reduce trafficking,
smuggling and irregular migration, and to strengthening integrated
border management". It refers to the need to implement existing
legislation on irregular migration and highlights the importance
of EU agencies such as Frontex in preventing irregular flows.
It also refers to "forthcoming Commission proposals on smart
borders, including an entry/exit system and a registered travellers'
A networked European border surveillance system, EUROSUR, is being
developed for the southern maritime border and the eastern land
border, in addition to the Commission's forthcoming 'smart borders'
proposals. The Commission has also mooted proposals for a common
border force or guard. The current systems will have to be adapted
to accommodate changes to the EU's external border once Croatia
joins the EU in 2013.
THE EFFECTIVE MANAGEMENT OF EXTERNAL
77. By far the most significant site of unauthorised
border-crossings into the EU is the Greek-Turkish border. Charles
Clarke thought that "a year or so ago" 90 per cent of
people crossing the Schengen border without authorisation did
so by traversing the Evros River between Greece and Turkey.
According to an assessment by the IOM, there were currently 1
million irregular migrants in Greece.
Christopher Chope referred to the inability of the Greek authorities
to deal with the crisis on their border and expressed doubt about
the effectiveness of Frontex in supporting their efforts in this
regard. His view was that Schengen members should be required
to demonstrate that they can control their own borders effectively
and if not that they should be removed from the Schengen Area.
Stefano Manservisi disagreed with the negative assessment of the
efficacy of EU interventions at the Greek-Turkish border, stating
that European co-financing had enabled a substantial increase
in the number of Greek border guards, which, along with Frontex
interventions, had dramatically reduced irregular crossings at
the land border.
He thought that the Greek-Turkey "border has been managed
properly" since the end of August 2012.
78. Charles Clarke also emphasised the importance
of an effectively managed external border, including the ability
to monitor who is entering and leaving (which modern technology
makes possible), and considered this to be important for maintaining
public confidence in the wider immigration system: "people
will not have confidence in the way in which migration is controlled
and governed unless they believe that there are proper controls
in these areas".
Stefano Manservisi agreed about the importance of effective border
controls, saying that "if we do not have a credible border
management system, our system is not credible".
However, he argued that "to reduce illegal migration, the
only way is to go to the origin of the problem", which is
why engagement with third countries through the GAMM is essential.
This includes cooperation with third countries to fight organised
crime networks involved in the smuggling of people, as well as
looking at options for opening up legal channels for migration
and mobility. Without such engagement, border controls "while
necessary, will not be effective". Professor Keith was
sceptical about states' ability to control their own borders and
queried whether investment in border controls was cost-effective.
He concluded that despite the "extraordinary emphasis"
on Frontex and issues of enforcement, "the realities sometimes
defy the rhetoric of the states".
79. Mark Harper MP, the Minister for Immigration,
stated that the EU clearly had a role to play in managing its
external borders and that its ongoing work in this area, which
saw particular Member States and EU Institutions working together,
was valuable. While he agreed that Member States, including the
United Kingdom, should support other Member States such as Greece
through funding and the secondment of national experts, he did
not believe that the EU should "stand in place" of those
Member States and make decisions on their behalf.
80. Some of our witnesses cautioned that the
political emphasis on external border controls obscures the fact
that most irregular migrants do not enter Europe irregularly.
Bernd Hemingway told us that "the public perception of migratory
flows across the Mediterranean Sea
seen on the television
and published in other media
does not reflect the reality.
Irregular migration is comprised mainly of visa overstayers".
Stefano Manservisi agreed with this view.
81. We strongly support the Government's efforts
to play an active role in the work of Frontex and the development
of EUROSUR and believe that it is in the United Kingdom's national
interest that these operations are efficient, effective and well
82. However, we believe that while external
border controls are a crucial part of any strategy to deal with
irregular migration, they have limited effects on reducing irregularity,
not least since most irregular migrants in Europe are visa over-stayers.
We recommend that both Member States and the EU consider a more
balanced and comprehensive approach to over-stayers, including
the selective encouragement of legal migration channels. We also
support the Commission's forthcoming proposal for an entry-exit
EU Readmission Agreements
83. The EU has entered into, or commenced negotiations
for, a number of Readmission Agreements with third countries.
More information is given in Box 3 and a complete list is available
in Appendix 4. Readmission Agreements are often, though not always,
negotiated at the same time as visa facilitation agreements, with
the latter intended as compensatory measures for the former. In
the context of the GAMM, both visa facilitation and Readmission
Agreements will form integral parts of Mobility Partnerships,
which we discuss further in Chapter 7.
84. While the United Kingdom does not participate
in any of the visa facilitation agreements, because they relate
to the Schengen Area, it participates in all 13 Readmission Agreements
that are currently in force. The number of enforced and voluntary
returns that have taken place from the United Kingdom to the third
countries covered by the Readmission Agreements is set out in
Appendix 4. While there is not much use made of some of the agreements
with smaller countries, in the case of the larger source countries,
there have been significant increases in the number of returns
EU Readmission Agreements
|EU Readmission Agreements are negotiated between
the EU and third countries to facilitate the return to their country
of origin persons residing without authorisation in a Member State.
Readmission Agreements are an important tool for returning irregular
migrants. They stipulate an obligation to readmit nationals of
the country with which the EU has signed the agreement and also
a commitment to readmit stateless persons and persons of another
jurisdiction who have entered the EU without authorisation from
the country in question. Readmission Agreements also contain technical
provisions on documentation, transit operations, and time limits.
There are currently 13 Readmission Agreements in force, and several
pending Agreements that have yet to be concluded due to sometimes
85. Professor Boswell noted that "fairly
substantial numbers of migrants had been returned under Readmission
Agreements"; information campaigns to deter irregular migration
on the other hand, had made much less of an impact.
However, Hugo Brady considered that Readmission Agreements needed
to be assessed to see whether they "are worth investing so
much time and energy in". In particular, he thought the Commission
should evaluate whether the EU agreements were more effective
than bilateral ones. One supposed added-value of Readmission Agreements
is that they allow for the return not only of the third country's
nationals, but also any national that had travelled through the
country's territory to get to the EU. However, he stated that
this was a rarely used aspect of Readmission Agreements, whether
for political or technical reasons.
Charles Clarke considered that, in theory, Readmission Agreements
were a good idea and thought that returns and readmissions should
be a much more significant part of EU foreign policy but judged
the EU's success in this area to be "extremely patchy".
86. In 2011, the Commission published a Communication
on the evaluation of EU Readmission Agreements. It aimed to evaluate
the implementation of the Readmission Agreements already in force,
assess the ongoing readmission negotiations and provide recommendations
for a future EU readmission policy, including on monitoring mechanisms.
However, this evaluation relied upon sometimes unreliable data
provided by some Member States and Eurostat data, which was also
considered to be deficient in some respects. It referred to the
role of Joint Readmission Committees (JRCs), which include representatives
of each party and usually meet once a year, and are responsible
for monitoring the implementation of the Readmission Agreements.
It also stated that JRCs should improve their performance in this
area by drawing more on information about the situation "on
the ground" from NGOs and other international organisations,
as well as Member States' embassies and EU delegations.
87. The Minister for Immigration confirmed that
the Government would only seek to opt-in to those Readmission
Agreements that they considered would provide some benefit or
value for the United Kingdom. If existing bilateral agreements
were deemed to be adequate or there were considered to be no issues
between the United Kingdom and the third country in question then
they were unlikely to opt-in.
88. We have consistently advocated the United
Kingdom's participation in all EU Readmission Agreements. We believe
that they can be important tools in facilitating returns to third
countries particularly if bilateral relations were to weaken between
the United Kingdom and particular third countries. We were disappointed
that the Government chose not to participate in the negotiating
mandates with Belarus and Armenia and would like to see the United
Kingdom opt-in at a later stage. We support the Government's decision
to opt-in to the agreement with Turkey.
89. We believe that the existing Readmission
Agreements would benefit from a full evaluation and urge the Government
to support such an approach by the Commission.
90. The GAMM states that "initiatives to
provide better protection for and empower victims of trafficking
in human beings" should be a priority under the second pillar.
It states that the EU "takes a holistic approach focusing
on prevention, prosecution of criminals and protection of victims"
and recommends that trafficking in human beings should be "systematically
included in relevant EU agreements and strategic partnerships
with non-EU countries and also in political dialogues on migration
91. The Human Trafficking Directive was adopted
by the EU in 2011 and the Government decided to opt-in after it
was adopted, with our support.
The Commission also published a strategy in June 2012 on the eradication
of trafficking in human beings.
The UNHCR also supported the EU's work in this area.
92. We support the commitment to embed anti-trafficking
measures in wider external migration relations as well as the
recognition of the need for a more coordinated and strategic approach.
We look forward to seeing evidence of these commitments being
put into practice in the 2014 evaluation report of the Anti-trafficking
93. The Minister for Immigration told us about
joint working between ministers in the Home Office and Foreign
and Commonwealth Office on anti-trafficking initiatives as an
example of inter-departmental cooperation.
The Government also stated that the GAMM's main thematic recommendations
on the fight against human trafficking were in line with their
own approach to this issue.
94. We restate our support for the United
Kingdom's participation in the Human Trafficking Directive and
welcome the Government's joined-up approach to this area.
91 GAMM, p. 15 Back
Q 145 Back
Q 219 Back
Migrant Rights' Network Back
Q 331 Back
Q 330 Back
Q 366 Back
EU Committee, Illegal Migrants: proposals for a common EU returns
policy (32nd Report of Session 2005-06, HL Paper 166) Back
GAMM, pp. 15-16. The Government is unlikely to opt-in to either
of the 'smart borders' proposals as Schengen-building measures.
The United Kingdom also operates its own e-Borders system outside
of Schengen. Back
QQ 161-162 Back
Q 377 Back
Q 216 Back
See Figure 3 and paragraph 24 in Chapter 2 Back
Q 319 Back
Q 143 Back
Q 319 Back
Q 193 Back
QQ 246-247 Back
Q 364 Back
Q 319 Back
Q 224 Back
Q 180 Back
Q 151 Back
Commission Communication, Evaluation of EU Readmission Agreements,
COM (2011) 76, 23.2.2011 Back
Q 248 Back
GAMM, pp. 16-17 Back
Directive 2011/36/EU on preventing and combating trafficking in
human beings and protecting its victims, OJ L101 (15 April 2011)
p 1 Back
Commission Communication, EU Strategy towards the Eradication
of Trafficking in Human Beings 2012-2016, COM (2012) 286,
Q 261 Back
UK Government Back