A joint European refugee and migration policy

Entrance to a tent in a refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon

Entrance to a tent in a refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon, © Thomas Trutschel / photothek.net

12.08.2022 - Article

Global refugee and migration flows have increased continuously in recent years. European solutions are needed for a sustainable refugee and migration policy. 

The Common European Asylum System

The Dublin Regulation sets out the member states’ responsibilities for asylum procedures. The arrival of large numbers of people seeking protection in recent years has revealed the shortcomings in the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) and the resulting need for reform. The German Government advocates reform on the basis of shared responsibility and solidarity, with the aim of establishing a more efficient European asylum system that is crisis‑proof and founded on solidarity.

In September 2020, the European Commission presented comprehensive proposals in a new Migration and Asylum Package that contains both adapted and new acts, some of them following on from the Dublin Regulation. This reform package is currently being negotiated in stages among the member states. The key question, as before, is how to balance out the responsibility of countries of first entry – for example with regard to procedures and registration at the external borders – and solidarity among the EU member states, for instance through the distribution of those seeking protection. While some EU member states reject the compulsory distribution of refugees, others, including the countries of first entry, are calling for more support.

The EU has already implemented some of the reform package proposals. For example, the European Union Agency for Asylum (EUAA), which replaces the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), began work in January 2022. The EUAA is responsible for improving the functioning of the CEAS by providing the member states with enhanced operational and technical support and ensuring greater coherence in the scrutiny of applications for international protection. Moreover, several member states and associated countries have confirmed the adoption of a declaration on solidarity. This envisages a voluntary mechanism for solidarity contributions in the form of relocations, particularly in respect of people rescued at sea, or other (notably financial) contributions. Further information on the development of European asylum policy is available on the website of the European Commission.

Cooperation with countries of origin and transit

Global refugee and migration flows can only be managed and steered by working together with the countries of origin and transit. To this end, a ground-breaking summit was held in Valletta, Malta, in November 2015 between the EU, the heads of government of the EU member states and the heads of government of 34 African countries, at which the participants agreed to work more closely together on migration. The Joint Valletta Action Plan adopted at this summit remains an important compass today and covers five focal areas:

  • reducing the causes of irregular migration and displacement;
  • promoting legal ways to migrate;
  • protecting migrants and refugees;
  • preventing irregular migration and combating human trafficking;
  • improving cooperation on returns, readmission and reintegration.

The Action Plan is being implemented as part of the Rabat and Khartoum Processes – the two central platforms for dialogue between the EU and Africa in the field of migration. Germany participates actively in both processes. In 2023, Germany will assume the chair of the Steering Committee of the Khartoum Process, which is responsible for operational management.

The external dimension of European refugee and migration policy is another central element of the European Commission’s proposals, made in 2020, for a new Migration and Asylum Package. The EU’s cooperation with important countries of origin, transit countries and host countries is to be intensified through balanced, tailored partnerships. This includes conflict prevention and stabilisation, promoting the rule of law and good governance, enhancing economic prospects, protecting refugees along the routes, establishing asylum systems, combating traffickers, promoting voluntary return and reintegration programmes and developing and encouraging better use of legal ways to migrate.

Under the EU Resettlement Programme, Germany is making a substantial contribution in taking in particularly vulnerable refugees from third countries. In 2022, Germany has provided up to 6000 places for resettlement, the humanitarian admission scheme with Turkey and refugee programmes run by the Länder.

The European Union is providing financial support for refugees and migration from its Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027 via the Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI – Global Europe). Under current plans, some 12 percent of the NDICI’s total budget of 79.5 billion euro is available for migration-related projects. The aim is to address issues such as the causes of displacement and irregular migration, violent displacement, the creation of conditions for legal migration and mobility, the expansion of border management and the fight against human trafficking more intensively.

Furthermore, the European Commission and member states are developing so‑called Team Europe initiatives (TEIs) in the sphere of displacement and migration, with the EU working with member states, their implementing organisations and development banks, as well as European financial institutions, to shape their funding and policy approaches. Two of these initiatives are devoted to the Maghreb and West Africa, or countries along the central Mediterranean route and the so-called Atlantic route, and another looks after displaced Afghans in Afghanistan’s neighbouring states.

A functioning asylum and refugee policy involves not only providing the necessary protection, but also repatriating people who are not granted permission to stay. Germany is helping the EU to improve cooperation on return with the countries of origin and transit. The EU has also signed readmission agreements with third countries to this end. These agreements oblige third countries to readmit people who have entered the EU illegally from their countries and whose application for protective status, if they have submitted one, has been rejected.

Regular Migration

Opening up ways to migrate to the EU legally makes it easier for workers to come to Europe and reduces the need for and risks of irregular migration. This helps to combat population decline in Europe and creates incentives for qualified migrants. Given the lack of skilled workers and demographic developments, such people are needed in Germany and Europe. At the same time, this policy helps combat human trafficking and people smuggling.

In the field of legal migration, the EU sets out directives for granting visas and residence permits and lays down rules for family reunification which can be further shaped by the member states, particularly for longer stays. The EU has also introduced the Blue Card Directive for highly qualified workers from third countries, which makes access to the German labour market easier for highly skilled professionals with the EU Blue Card. The ICT Directive simplifies intra-corporate transfers of managers and specialists to the EU.

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