On June 18, 2015, the United Nations refugee agency published its annual global report. In that occasion, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres warned that the world is facing a staggering crisis as the number of forcibly displaced people rises to record numbers – 59.5 million at the end of 2014: "When you see the news in any global network we clearly get the impression that the world is at war.” The report unequivocally reveals that the world is facing a major humanitarian emergency, the most serious after the Second World War.
According to the European Union Agency, Frontex, between 2011 and 2014, the number of irregular migrants who entered the EU, through the Mediterranean, has been 400,000, 60% of whom concentrated in 2014. Based on the data compiled by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), between 2000 and 2014, 22,400 people died in the Mediterranean Sea, attempting to migrate to the EU. In 2014, the large majority of migrant deaths occurred in the Mediterranean, accounting for an estimated 75 per cent (3,072) of all deaths last year, making the region the deadliest in the world for migrants.
Since January 2015, the number of deaths dramatically increased (2.432 estimated total, in late August 2015). Day by day, the situation is getting worse and worse. The number of irregular migrants and of deaths is not decreasing. On the contrary, the geopolitical situation of the MENA region and the adjacent regions and/or sub-regions, does not offer positive perspectives on the migration emergency. In particular, the Arab revolts and the post-Arab Spring drastically altered the inter-regional relations and transformed the status quo ante.
On the other hand, the economic crisis, that deeply affected and still affects the EU, reduced its growth, weakened its institutions and produced an intensification of the pre-existent xenophobe speeches in several member countries. As a consequence, until 2015, the EU migration agenda and its priorities have been often sacrificed and/or bypassed. Nevertheless, the recent dramatic intensification of irregular flows and its implications in other particularly relevant issues, such as Security and Defence, urged the EU to adopt clear, common and effective measures to contain, control and manage the phenomenon.
EU ACTION IN THE PAST 20 YEARS
Migratory management has become a key geopolitical element, increasingly important in the context of international relations within the Mediterranean region. Over the past two decades, the EU has supported various actions, including: (i) the establishment of FRONTEX, the EU specialized agency established in May 2005 aimed to promote, coordinate and develop European border management in line with the EU fundamental rights charter applying the concept of Integrated Border Management; (ii) the launch of GAMM, the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, in 2005; (iii) the creation of EUROSUR, the European external border surveillance system; (iv) the launch of the Mobility Partnership; (v) the institution of the Task Force Mediterranean; moreover (vi) concerning trafficking in Human Beings, a EU Strategy towards the Eradication of Trafficking in Human Beings was adopted in 2012; and (vii) several efforts have been registered, in order to create a Common European Asylum System.
Moreover, at regional level, the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) has played and may play an even more significant role, in the future. Finally, other policies, such as the Euromed Migration program and the Dialogue 5+5, helped the Mediterranean institutional actors to find shared solutions.
Nevertheless, until 2015,effective migratory policies had been mainly developed at national level. In spite of its recent efforts, the EU appears a complementary actor and an EU comprehensive and full common migratory management has not been implemented yet.Moreover, the EU approach has often put an accent on Security matters, ignoring major causes of international migration, such as the socioeconomic development of the countries of emigration.
RECENT HUMANITARIAN EMERGENCIES
In recent times, we have been facing major humanitarian emergencies, caused by armed conflicts, within the region (Syria, Libya, action of the Islamic State), and in several neighbour countries (Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan). The latter are recognized to be the main causes that produced a dramatic increase of the migration flows. A renovate and ad hoc plan of intervention in the Mediterranean is urged, from both a short and long-term perspectives.
From a short-term perspective, a number of measures need immediate EU common action. In particular, it is necessary to make a clear distinction between asylum-seekers, refugees and illegal economic migrants; we need a specific plan for Libya; urgently, we have to draft a concrete plan of aid for the neighbour countries facing major humanitarian crises, also in cooperation with other organizations, such as the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, IOM and UNICEF; as well as, it is necessary to restore and reinforce cross-border cooperation.
Additionally, an effective long-term plan of intervention will be crucial. The latter, in order to be effective, should take under advisement not only migration stricto sensu, but also several related issues, such as the demographic evolution within the region, the complementariness between the north and the south, the characteristics of the job markets, the expectation for the future, urbanization, human trafficking and the regional criminal networks.
On May 13, 2015, the European Commission presented a European Agenda on Migration (or ‘Agenda’), outlining the immediate measures that will be taken in order to respond to the crisis situation in the Mediterranean as well as the steps to be taken in the coming years to better manage migration in all its aspects.
In the short-term, the Agenda sets out a number of concrete and immediate actions, including tripling the capacities and assets for the Frontex joint operations Triton and Poseidon in 2015 and 2016, and proposing the first ever activation of the emergency mechanism to help Member states confronted with a sudden influx of migrants under Article 78(3) TFEU. Moreover, the Agenda proposes an EU-wide resettlement scheme to offer 20,000 places distributed in all Member States to displaced persons in clear need of international protection in Europe with a dedicated extra funding of €50 million for 2015 and 2016. Finally, it is suggested to work on a possible Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) operation in the Mediterranean to dismantle traffickers' networks and fight smuggling of people, in accordance with international law.
In the medium and long-term, the Agenda proposes to develop further common actions on four main pillars, to better manage migration, in all its aspects. The four pillars of the new Agenda on Migration are: (i) Reducing the incentives for irregular migration; (ii) Border management; (ii) Europe's duty to protect: a strong common asylum policy; and (iv) A new policy on legal migration.
After the approval of the Agenda, two implementation packages were adopted, respectively in May and September 2015. The mentioned package deals contain several provisions and proposals, namely (i) a new operational plan for Operation Triton; (ii) a public consultation on the future of the ‘Blue Card’ Directive; (iii) guidelines on the implementation of EU rules on the obligation to take fingerprints; (iv) a EU action plan against migrant smuggling; (v) multilateral and national schemes on resettling; (vi) an emergency response mechanism of relocation to assist Italy and Greece; (vii) a trust fund for Africa; (viii) three communications on addressing the external dimension of the refugee crisis, on public procurement rules for refugee support measures, and a EU action plan on return; (xix) a Commission recommendation establishing a ‘Return Handbook’; and (x) two proposals for a regulation.
Despite the positive signal represented by the adoption of a new European plan on migration and its implementation packages, it is strongly urged to adopt further and concrete actions, based on the four mentioned pillars. The EU should take effective and comprehensive measures in order to fully and commonly manage international migration within the Mediterranean region. In order to achieve an effective and common long-term migration plan, it will be necessary to avoid a mere security and defence perspective.
On the contrary, it is necessary to reinforce a series of different aspects, apparently not strictly related to international migration, but relevant indeed. In particular, the socioeconomic realities in the southern Mediterranean countries and in their neighbourhood will represent a crucial element for the future of international migration. In other words, in order to be successful, the EU further steps shouldn’t only try to contrast the effects of migration, but deeply intervene on its causes.
Caterina Pikiz-Gattinoni is a Postgraduate Fellow - Institutional and Euro-Mediterranean Relations at European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) in Barcelona.
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Renewed in 2011, GAMM represents the overarching framework of the EU external migration and asylum policy. The framework defines how the EU conducts its policy dialogues and cooperation with non-EU countries, based on clearly defined priorities and embedded in the EU’s overall external action, including development cooperation. Within the framework of the GAMM, migration issues are part of overall political and economic relations with a series of key partners and countries of origin and transit.
EUROSUR was designed to support the Member States in their efforts to reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the European Union by improving their situational awareness at their external borders and increasing the reaction capability of their information and border control authorities. Launched by the EU Commission, it was approved in 2013, by the EU Parliament.
The Mobility Partnership was originally designed in 2008, with several countries in its immediate and further neighbourhood. These offer a comprehensive framework for bilateral cooperation between the EU and its partner countries, based on mutual offers of commitments and project initiatives covering mobility, migration and asylum issues, within the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM). The Mobility Partnership with Jordan (October 2014) is the first of its kind with a country in the Middle East region. It follows the signature of such partnerships with other countries bordering the Mediterranean (Morocco in June 2013 and Tunisia in March 2014).
[4Following the major crisis on the Lampedusa’s coasts, in 2013, the Task Force Mediterranean was established in orderto better manage migration and asylum flows, and prevent deaths at sea. In May 2014, the Commission issued a communication on the work of the Task Force and since 1 November 2014, the Joint Operation Triton was launched at the request of the Italian authorities, in order to support them in the Central Mediterranean.Over 19.500 lives have been saved, since then, and the operation has been extended until the end of 2015.
In particular, in 2010, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), were established and between 2011 and 2013, several rules agreed [revision of the Asylum Procedures Directive, revision of the Reception Conditions Directive, revision of the Qualification Directive, revision of the Dublin Regulation (Dublin II), revision of the EURODAC Regulation].
Eleftheria Neframi,Répartition des compétences entre l'Union européenne et ses Etats membres en matière d'immigration, Parlement européen, Bruxelles, 2011.
Treaty on the functioning of the European Union, article 4 and title V.
Council Decision(EU) 2015/1523 of 14 September 2015, andCouncil Decision (EU) 2015/1601 of 22 September 2015.
Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing an EU common list of safe countries of origin for the purposes of Directive 2013/32/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council on common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, and amending Directive 2013/32/EU; and proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing a crisis relocation mechanism and amending Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member States responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third country national or a stateless person.