Tag: Migration

Migration post-Covid

  • September 2020
  • Ioanna Karagianni

Migration Post-Covid

Aiming for a successful EU Pact on Migration and Asylum

Source: WikiMedia

Migration has been a hot potato for the EU Member States’ politicians and for the EU itself. Since 2008, the numbers of asylum seekers in Europe have been massive, but the EU has been unable to manage the situation successfully due to old policies and due to discrepancies between the EU Member States’ responses to the highly politicized migration topic. With the rise of the corona virus epidemic, migration has been somehow put aside; however, it is still a phenomenon and will continue being one that the EU will have to deal with eventually.


In January, the European Commission’s (EC) new work program was published. Under the fifth priority – ‘Promoting our European Way of Life‘, the EC announced its plans to launch a New Pact on Asylum and Migration. President Von der Leyen in her State of the Union (SOTEU) speech announced that the delayed pact will be presented next week. As it has already been described, “the pact will acknowledge that internal and external aspects of migration are interconnected and will strive for more resilient, more humane and more effective migration and asylum system, which will also underpin confidence in the Schengen area of free movement”.


A range of leaked papers have showed that the EC’s plans  are but a renewed guide of responsibility sharing among the EU Member States. This is something that is indeed missing, but there is a wide agreement that the EU needs to be more ambitious. Especially after the latest incidents at the Moria camp in Greece, the EU Member States need to better share their responsibility, as Von der Leyen pledged today in her SOTEU speech.


The big migration flows have taught us a lesson about solidarity among the EU Member States, the EC President called upon in her speech. The EC, together with the German EU Presidency and its ability to influence Member States in this critical moment, need to urgently push for a harmonization in the responses of the Member States, especially the most reluctant ones’. Member States need to be persuaded that they should contribute to  the refugees’ and migrants’ relocations, prioritizing women and unaccompanied minors.


Furthermore, it is  important that the right to asylum is reinforced. The EC needs to put more pressure on EU Member States to fulfill their obligations under EU and International Law. All applicants for asylum need to be allowed and be assisted to have appropriate interviews with the relevant authorities, while also their right to appeal needs to be protected.  Coordination between the Member States’ national authorities needs to be enhanced, along with more transparency in the spending of the resources allocated to them.


The new policies need not simply be a reformulation of the European border externalization policy. The past years,  most EU policies have focused on migration control and returns to third countries instead of safe and legal pathways. As the European Policy Centre has suggested, the new agreement should “consolidate the interests the EU shares with its neighbors and live up to its rhetoric of building ‘a true partnership of equals’ with developing regions”. In addition, human rights risk assessments and developing risk mitigation strategies can be another way to protect the ones fleeing back to dangerous and conflict affected areas. As the Council of Europe has recommended, ‘this should be complemented by monitoring mechanisms and an effective system of redress. The possibility of public scrutiny of (planned) co-operation activities and their results is also a crucial element for improving human rights safeguards’.


The European Commission needs to live up to its promise to effectively protect the vulnerable and to act according to international law, especially in the context of the current pandemic which has both revealed and created more vulnerabilities and has added to the already  complex migration situation. Because, as the political guidelines of Ursula Von der Leyen read, ‘Europe will always honour our values and extend a helping hand to refugees fleeing persecution or conflict – it is our moral duty.’

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CFEP in Porto

  • January 2020
  • Hannah Bettsworth

CFEP in Porto

An update on our work with our friends at the TRAIN project


Last week, the Centre for European Progression headed to Porto for a seminar with the Tracing Integration Policies through Structured Dialogue (TRAIN) project team. The project aims to get young people and politicians together to talk about common European legal migration and integration policies. Based on these discussion events, the partners will come together to develop recommendations to the EU institutions.

The project carries out local and international activities, and we will be organising the final activity in Brussels to present the recommendations. Young people can also participate in the project online, and that was the main topic of the Porto seminar. First, we discussed which topics to select for further dialogue both in person and on the forum. Splitting into groups of two, we then spent hours researching, discussing and writing recommendations on our chosen topics.


The CFEP worked on migration with the Law and Internet Foundation (Bulgaria), and used our institutional knowledge to come up with policy recommendations. For example, we participated in the European Council of Refugees and Exiles’ annual conference in October 2019. While there, we learned about examples of good practice on integration. As such, we could recommend that other countries copy Belgium’s DUO for a JOB, pairing over 50s with young jobseekers of a migrant background.

In order to launch our new forum, we visited the Colégio Internato Claret with the help of our partners at Geoclube. There, we presented the project to the students and sat down with them to discuss their ideas. They were an articulate, socially aware group of young people who were full of ideas. The group the CFEP worked with had a particular passion for helping the homeless, having volunteered to distribute food to them. We spoke about how, in the UK, Indian restaurants often open on Christmas to give free dinners and company to people with nowhere else to go. We also decided that food was a way for people to get to know each other’s cultures. In Britain, Meghan Markle worked with the Hubb Community Kitchen – run by and for Grenfell Tower survivors – to produce a cookbook together with women from 12 different countries. Here in Belgium, there is also a Syrian refugees’ catering group in Antwerp.



The groups then posted their ideas on the forum, and we would invite all our followers to do the same! All you need is an email address: there’s no need to make yet another new online account. On the last day of the seminar, we exchanged project experiences with each other, finalised our policy recommendations, and then tackled the francesinha, a local sandwich filled with meat, covered in cheese and a beer sauce. It does come in a vegetarian version, but even then it’s a real challenge to finish!

All in all, we had a good, productive time in Porto and are looking forward to the next seminar in Malta!

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A Zombie Proposal: the Recast Return Directive

  • September 2019
  • Hannah Bettsworth

A Zombie Proposal: the Recast Return Directive

This Directive would fast-track asylum cases at the expense of fundamental rights. The EU should not resurrect it.

Source: Pixabay

The previous Italian government blocked migration cooperation completely, out of a desire to block migration itself. It not only refused to take search and rescue ships into Italian ports, it sought to criminalise anyone who organised such rescue efforts.
With a new government in Italy, the Member States have sought to take the opportunity to deal with migration while it lasts. They formed a temporary agreement on disembarkations at a rotating series of EU ports.


The Finnish Presidency has also included migration in its programme, albeit not as a headline issue. They hint at resurrection of individual elements of the failed Common European Asylum System package.


That raises the spectre of the Recast Return Directive, a Commission proposal to reform the processes through which third country nationals who lack approval to stay are sent to other countries. Its reasoning was that the EU must act on migrant returns to maintain public confidence, and to reduce irregular migration. In 2018, of those ordered to leave the EU, 41.49% were physically returned (most of whom, but not all, were sent back to a third country.)


The Commission, therefore, decided they needed to change the law to improve the return rate. They, however, failed to carry out an impact assessment. The European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) requested a substitute impact assessment from the European Parliamentary Research Service. This found that there was no clear evidence that the proposal would lead to more effective returns, while it would likely breach migrants’ fundamental rights. They highlight its effects on the right to liberty (through increasing use and length of detention) and the non-refoulement principle. The latter issue arises in cases where the reforms allow Member States to continue with deportations while appeals are in progress, leading to a clear risk of returning someone to face persecution.


It also explains the main changes to the Directive which can be found in the proposal. Primarily, it would create a wide-ranging, extensive list of factors that could determine the risk that an applicant will seek to evade the return process  – known as the ‘risk of absconding’. It would force third-country nationals to cooperate with the Member State authorities. Member States would have to issue a return decision right after rejecting or ending someone’s legal stay, losing their discretion. It seeks to remove the minimum 7-day grace period for voluntary departure, and cap it at 30 days with the potential for extension.
Where a risk of absconding is present, the application deemed as ‘manifestly unfounded‘ or fraudulent, or the applicant is deemed to be ‘a risk to public policy, public security or national security’, Member States would have to refuse a voluntary departure period. The proposal also allows handing out entry bans to irregular stayers discovered when they travel from their EU country of residence to a non-EU country. Member States would have to set up a national return management system linked to European Border and Coast Guard systems. They would also have to set up voluntary return programmes that could include support for reintegration in the return country.


The proposal also reduces the time limits for appeals against return decisions. It falls to 5 days in the case of a final rejection of an application for international protection. A rejected applicant at the border with a final decision would have a mere 48 hours. It also severely restricts the circumstances when return is suspended pending appeal. Finally, it establishes posing ”a risk to public policy, public security or national security’ as grounds for detention.


There are numerous potential human rights abuses which could arise from this Directive. The European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) explain this in detail. To take just one issue, both groups call for the deletion of Article 22 on the Border Procedure.


This procedure would permit Member States to enact speedy returns after a fast-tracked analysis of the person’s case at the border. In a fast-track process, vulnerable people may be unable to build an effective enough case for asylum or international protection. Their case will no longer always automatically be suspended pending appeal, unless they introduce new, significant, situation-changing material since the first assessment, or the asylum decision did not receive effective legal scrutiny. Such people face a serious risk of wrongful removal. If they can access legal help, that service will have only 48 hours to travel to the border and produce a case.


According to the ECRE, reports from “hotspots in Greece illustrate that such an approach is unworkable in practice and results in massive human rights violations”. The FRA adds “it is not possible to suggest solutions that would re-design the proposed border procedure in the Return Directive to ensure its fundamental rights compliance.”


Worryingly, the FRA also states that “[I]t is not yet known whether it will apply only to persons apprehended directly at the border or if it will be possible, for example, to channel into the border procedure also persons apprehended elsewhere in the territory of a Member State, or if it can apply to all categories of applicants for international protection, including vulnerable persons.” In other words, an exceptional procedure could become the standard assessment mechanism. It has already happened in Hungary, where those caught elsewhere are taken to border detention.


Migrants from particular, disadvantaged, backgrounds stand to be the worst hit by this proposal. It would particularly harm women who have experienced Gender Based Violence (GBV) and LGBT+ people. Asylum-seeking and refugee women may not recognise GBV as GBV at first, for a variety of different reasons: including, but not limited to fear of deportation or of ostracisation from their communities. They may not want to share their experiences with interviewers or other professionals such as lawyers and interpreters. LGBT+ African asylum seekers in the UK reported disbelief and accusations of lying when telling Home Office decision makers about their sexuality. Some of them struggled to come out as LGBT+ out of fear or did not know it was a basis for claiming asylum. Both groups need time and assistance to handle their situation and produce as effective a case as they can.


Fast-tracked decision-making and return procedures, by definition, seek to deprive applicants of that time and space. Such reforms should be left in the past with the last mandate. The European Union should refocus on ensuring that all arrivals on its territory are met with dignity and the utmost respect for their rights and humanity. Such respect must be upheld at every stage of the international protection process from application through to acceptance or return. The recast Return Directive, in its current form, fails that test.


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This Is New Africa: EU-Africa relations after Cotonou

  • September 2019
  • Hannah Bettsworth

This Is New Africa: EU-Africa relations after Cotonou

Source: Pixabay

The EU and Africa have a chance to build a rebalanced, modern partnership of equals if they tackle tough issues together.

Before we start talking about Africa, trade, and development, take a few minutes to go and take this quiz. A quick highlight, if you don’t have the time: in the last 20 years the proportion of the world population living in extreme poverty has halved.

How did you do? Most people do not do very well. They actually do worse than a computer randomly selecting the answers would (do). That is because us humans come with pre-existing biases, from charity appeals and songs and endless images of people in extreme poverty worldwide. A lot of people assume that extreme poverty is getting worse, when the opposite is happening.

The Africa that the EU is negotiating its future relationship with is not the Africa of Live Aid (which was incredibly patronising even in 1984, and bears no resemblance to the modern-day continent.) It has exceptional growth potential, as well as a young population, and seeks to enact the right policies to ensure that growth leads to jobs for those young people. That’s where the EU-Africa relationship comes in. The renewal of their partnership will provide an opportunity to build a true partnership of equals: one that should aim to consign misconceptions and stereotyping to the past.

Indeed, when the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) – EU Partnership Agreement (more commonly known as ‘Cotonou‘) was signed in 2000, the African Union (AU) was still known as the Organisation of African Unity. Just as Africa’s governance has changed, so has Europe’s, and, naturally, Cotonou has evolved to take into account changes over the last 20 years.
The rise of the AU is something that will specifically have to be considered. The ACP group was developed by its Member States for development and negotiation purposes, primarily with the EU. The pressing question today is whether continuing with centralised negotiations at the ACP-EU level would sideline Africa’s own regional and continental institutions – as well as North African countries, which are in the AU but not the ACP as they fall under the EU Neighbourhood Policy. In turn, centralised negotiations risk reducing regional engagement with and interest in African-EU affairs. The EU must make sure that both the AU and regional groups are treated as important, relevant actors (not just in Africa, but in the Caribbean and Pacific) and that their knowledge and expertise is recognised and valued in the negotiations.

Trade is just one of the areas where African regions are especially relevant. The EU, being a trade power, has used its Generalised Scheme of Preferences classifications as well as trade deals to ensure that the vast majority of African countries benefit from reduced or entirely eliminated tariffs. The Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the EU cover different regional groups within the ACP. However, there was little additional benefit to African countries from negotiating these deals where they already had almost complete access to the Single Market. A side-effect of these regional deals has been that groups of African countries have signed up to different trade terms and commitments. As the AU recently ratified the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCTA), it is attempting to move towards a single African market for goods and services, which is made more complex by those divergent trade practices.


Think back to the quiz you just did. Poverty worldwide has dropped substantially over the last few decades. One of the reasons for this drop is trade liberalisation. To eradicate persistent extreme poverty, especially in Africa, the World Bank has called on the international community to reduce trade costs, improve the trade environment, tackle specific barriers facing remote, small traders and women, and mitigate the risks that the poor face


The Center for Global Development‘s recommendations to the EU identified an issue with EU rules of origin. Countries that manufacture products using components sourced from other African countries find it  difficult to prove they have sufficient domestic content to access reduced tariffs or provisions of a trade agreement, which disincentivises regional value chains. The CGD also maintains that agricultural subsidies undermine development and have little benefit for the environment. A study for the European Parliament Development Committee found that, under the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), some targeted support for particular agricultural products distorted markets and there was a lack of coherence between agriculture and climate goals. The CAP goes to the heart of internal EU controversies. In a negotiation between equal partners in which one side is negatively affected by subsidies, however, the two partners will have to be bold enough to tackle it head-on.

Migration is a similarly controversial issue which the two partners will not be able to duck. Most Africans who want to move wish to do so within Africa, although 27% still wish to move to Europe. As countries get richer, migration increases, until they reach the mid-range of upper middle-income status. Out of 54 African countries, 9 currently have World Bank upper-middle income status or above and 23 have lower-middle income status. The potential for increased migration, therefore, is real. African countries have particular security concerns about the risk of youth unemployment: migration both helps mitigate the issue and allows the country of origin to benefit from remittances.

What is in it for the EU? To start with, although limiting migration is often cast as a security measure, if conflicts are exacerbated by unemployment the EU can expect additional migration flows.  Europe suffers from demographic pressures that are the opposite to Africa’s: its population is aging. Legal migration pathways have the potential to benefit both sides, and the Commission cannot sustainably continue with business as usual. Pressure from Africa may be useful in forcing it to act. The expansion of Global Skills Partnerships (GSPs), as highlighted by the CDG report, could be useful both in Africa-to-Africa migration and Africa-to-Europe.  They can be supported by the Commission, but not instigated by it. The Flanders region has already enacted a GSP: it pays for ICT training in Morocco, and some of the workers stay in the local market while others come to Flanders to resolve local labour shortages. That allows for legal, permanent migration opportunities without depriving the local markets of talent. Both sides should find the political will to discuss new migration opportunities, rather than remaining dogmatically focused on migration control and enforcement.
Overall, if the EU truly wishes to have a sibling-like relationship with Africa,  that will involve much more sharing and compromise. A solution on legal migration is of particular interest to Africa and something the EU will have to find the political will for, and the reduction of EU trade barriers would benefit both partners in the long run as Africa continues to grow and do business with Europe. Moving away from a donor-recipient relationship means that the EU will be dealing with a much more organised, powerful and assertive African Union than that of 20 years ago. The post-Cotonou dialogue is a fork in the road. Whether the two continents take the well-travelled route or dare to try something different will determine their intertwined future for decades to come.

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