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

Chapter 5: international protection and asylum policy

95.  The third pillar of the GAMM concerns the promotion of international protection for refugees and enhancing the external dimension of asylum policy. It states that the EU and its Member States should be "among the frontrunners in promoting global responsibility-sharing based on the Geneva Refugee Convention and in close cooperation with the UNHCR, other relevant agencies and non-EU countries".[122]

96.  The UNHCR and the Government welcomed the addition of the third pillar in the reconstituted GAMM,[123] as did Ralph Genetzke, the Director of the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD).[124] Charles Clarke considered this to be the second most important GAMM pillar and Stefano Manservisi also emphasised its role in the new GAMM.[125]

European Asylum Support Office

97.  The European Asylum Support Office (EASO), which began operating in 2011, told us that it cooperates with Frontex and international organisations including the IOM and UNHCR in supporting and developing the external dimension of the EU's migration and asylum policy, but that it required more resources in order to fulfil its potential.[126] Kyriacos Triantaphyllides MEP (a member of the European Parliament's LIBE Committee) was enthusiastic about the impact it had already made in Greece, stating that within a year of the EASO sending officials there, the LIBE Committee had noticed a big improvement in that Member State's detention/holding centres. However, Claude Moraes MEP suggested that the relatively small size of the EASO might limit its potential in this regard.[127] The UNHCR also saw potential in the EASO to support Member States by providing training to national migration officers and by collating existing country-of-origin information.[128]

98.  We welcome the establishment of the European Asylum Support Office and look forward to monitoring its progress.

EU asylum policy

99.  Beyond the role of the EASO, however, there was a degree of scepticism about how much progress the GAMM could make in this area. Claude Moraes MEP and Open Europe remarked that the GAMM's role in asylum policy (and other areas) was limited because the EU's involvement created political difficulties for politicians in Member States. Claude Moraes MEP stated that asylum policy had "such intimate links with the social bargain—the bargain between a government and its electorate on immigration policy. So if you try to outsource it prematurely to the European Union, I think we may experience a backlash".[129]

Burden sharing and solidarity

100.  Many of our witnesses emphasised the importance of burden sharing. Christopher Chope thought that there was a very strong case for more EU cooperation in relation to asylum-seekers and refugees.[130] Charles Clarke considered that burden sharing should see the wealthier Member States in the north providing more resources to those in the south to help them manage the pressures on their borders.[131] Stefano Manservisi argued that increased support for Greece, Italy and Spain was necessary because their border authorities were providing a public service to the rest of the EU.[132]

101.  Helen Hibberd, from the Hackney Migrants Centre, referred to the inequities of the Dublin II Regulation, under which Italy and Greece were forced to accept the majority of asylum seekers because they were located on the border of the EU.[133] However, Charles Clarke and Christopher Chope did not agree with suggestions that the Dublin system should be reformed to reallocate asylum applicants across the EU.[134]

102.  Rebecca Crerar and Helen Hibbert both argued that strong minimum reception conditions were needed for asylum seekers as otherwise they would continue to try to move to the same few countries where they knew they were likely to get better treatment.[135] Timothy Kirkhope MEP (also a member of the European Parliament's LIBE Committee) felt that minimum reception conditions for asylum seekers were all that the GAMM could hope to achieve, while Charles Clarke and the UNHCR both emphasised the importance of fair and efficient asylum procedures.[136]

103.  In March 2012 the JHA Council adopted Conclusions on a common framework for genuine and practical solidarity towards Member States facing particular pressures on their asylum systems, including through mixed migration flows.[137]

Regional Protection Programmes

104.  The UNCHR told us they saw "particular opportunities" in the use of Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs) under the GAMM and noted that they had already assisted several countries neighbouring the EU or in regions of origin to build asylum capacity, as well as supporting the UNHCR's own resettlement operations. Sir Andrew Green and the Government also acknowledged the potential of RPPs.[138] Further information about RPPs is provided in Box 4.


Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs)

Regional Protection Programmes (RPPs) are designed to enhance the capacity of non-EU countries in regions where many refugees originate or pass through in transit. They aim to improve refugee protection, through EU financed practical actions, which can include improving general protection in the host country, establishing fair and efficient asylum procedures, building capacity and training on protection issues for those working with refugees, providing support to regions hosting large refugee populations and sharing responsibility through resettlement. RPPs are developed by the Commission in close collaboration with Member States, the UNHCR, and in partnership with the countries of origin, transit and first asylum, which receive a far greater percentage of the world's refugees than the EU does.

The first two RPPs targeted Eastern Europe—particularly Belarus, Moldova and the Ukraine—as a region of transit and the African Great Lakes Region—particularly Tanzania—as a region of origin. In 2010, the Commission decided to prolong these two RPPs and to apply the concept to two new regions: the Horn of Africa, including Kenya, Yemen and Djibouti, and Eastern North Africa, including Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

105.  In October 2012 the JHA Council unanimously endorsed the Commission's intention to establish an RPP for Syria and its neighbours in order to alleviate the humanitarian and refugee crisis in the region. According to the UNHCR more than 350,000 refugees have already left Syria, mostly crossing into neighbouring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Turkey. Over 16,000 have entered the EU.[139]

106.  We acknowledge the potential of Regional Protection Programmes to facilitate the GAMM's work in building capacity in countries of origin and transit. We particularly welcome the recent establishment of a Regional Protection Programme for Syria. We encourage the Government to play a proactive role in their operation and development.

Joint EU Resettlement Programme

107.  In March 2012 the JHA Council agreed to set common EU resettlement priorities for 2013, through the adoption of a Joint EU Resettlement Programme, as well as new rules regarding the financial support that Member States receive from the European Refugee Fund (ERF) for the resettlement of refugees from third countries.[140] More information about this programme is set out in Box 5.


Joint EU Resettlement Programme

The Joint EU Resettlement Programme is a voluntary and flexible scheme, which aims to ensure that resettlement activity in the EU can be increased by improving Member States' understanding and experience of resettlement and their capacity to resettle refugees from third countries. Under the scheme the UNHCR is responsible for an annual priority-setting exercise for the resettlement of refugees of particular nationalities or from certain regions that are judged as especially vulnerable depending upon the global circumstances of the time. These priorities are finalised after consulting other expert NGOs, Member States and the European Parliament. The EASO will have a role in promoting resettlement in the context of the Asylum and Migration Fund during the period 2014 to 2020.

According to the UNHCR, twelve EU Member States currently run resettlement programmes, together contributing to less than 8 per cent of the annual resettlement places on offer around the world. Up to 80,000 refugees are resettled every year. Most go to the United States, Canada and Australia, while Europe takes in some 5,000 refugees.[141]

108.  The UNHCR welcomed the funding made available to undertake resettlement referrals but noted the need for an increase in the number of resettlement places offered by Member States, as they had been reticent about offering "significant" places for refugees from RPP countries.[142]

109.  The Government already operates a unilateral resettlement programme called the Gateway Protection Programme, which allows up to 750 refugees to settle in the United Kingdom each year. It is operated by the UKBA in partnership with the UNHCR. The system operates separately from the standard domestic asylum application process and currently receives 50 per cent of its funding from the ERF. In their written evidence the Government affirmed their support for resettlement in principle, including the Gateway Protection Programme and the proposed Asylum and Migration Fund, which included resettlement as an objective, and which they had decided to opt in. However, they disagreed with the GAMM's call for a "more strategic use" of resettlement if this meant giving the EU competence to set priorities and instead believed that resettlement should remain purely voluntary, with Member States retaining responsibility for deciding the total number of people they wished to resettle and from which particular countries.[143]

110.  We recommend that the EU should aim to accept more resettlement refugees under the Regional Protection Programmes as part of their ongoing dialogue and cooperation with the UNHCR.

111.  We commend the Government's ongoing commitment to resettlement through its Gateway Protection Programme and endorse its support for the establishment of the joint EU resettlement programme.

122   GAMM, p. 6 Back

123   UNHCR, UK Government Back

124   Q 347. The ICMPD is an NGO which was established during the Balkan wars in 1993. All of its member states are European but not all are members of the EU. It concentrates on capacity building, facilitating dialogue between the EU and third countries and research. It is based in Vienna and its biggest donor is the Commission, with its members providing the remaining funding. Back

125   Q 145, Q 315 Back

126   The EASO's role is to coordinate exchanges of information relating to the external dimension of the CEAS; to coordinate actions regarding resettlement; and to cooperate with third countries on technical matters, including capacity building. It is based in Malta and began its operations in 2011. Back

127   Q 334 Back

128   Q 397 Back

129   Q 103 Back

130   Q 208. Back

131   Q 158 Back

132   Q 320 Back

133   Q 88 Back

134   Q 158, Q 207 Back

135   Q 68 Back

136   QQ 161-162, UNHCR Back

137   Council Document No 7485/12 Back

138   Q 208, UK Government Back

139   3195th Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting, 25-26 October 2012 Back

140   Council Document No 6838/12. The ERF will be absorbed by the Asylum and Migration Fund in due course. Under the revised ERF, Member States will be entitled to receive a lump sum of €4000 for each person resettled according to agreed priorities. Back

141   UNHCR Back

142   UNHCR Back

143   UK Government Back

previous page contents next page

© Parliamentary copyright 2012