Statement: European Commission’s response to the migratory flows from North Africa

The European Commission released a statement on 8 April summarising its actions.  Excerpts:

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Measures addressing the migration flows towards the European Union

Urgent measures already undertaken

The massive displacement of populations from several North African countries has been putting the protection and reception systems of some of the EU Member States, in particular in Italy and Malta, under increasing strain. The European Union has responded to these serious challenges in a rapid and effective manner with the aim of stabilizing the situation.

Frontex has deployed the Joint Operation EPN Hermes Extension 2011 to assist the Italian authorities in managing the influx of migrants from North Africa, most of whom have been arriving on the island of Lampedusa. This mission was launched on 20 February 2011, only four days after receiving the official request from the Italian authorities, a clear signal of solidarity between Member States. FRONTEX stands ready to continue the mission as long as it will be necessary, and to expand it, provided that Member States will make available the necessary staff, vessels and equipment. In view of the above the Commission is launching the necessary procedures for reinforcing the FRONTEX 2011 budget with an additional EUR 30 million.

Europol has also deployed a team of experts to Italy in order to help the national authorities to assist in detecting and preventing possible criminal of trafficking of human beings.

Regarding the financial needs linked with the displacement, the Commission’s four migration-related funds (the External Borders Fund, Return Fund, Refugee Fund and Integration Fund) are available to Member States. For example, Italy, one of the major beneficiaries of these funds, has been allocated €55 million for 2010 and €75 million for 2011. Moreover, the Commission makes available an additional €25 million of emergency funding which can be quickly mobilised under the External Borders Funds and European Refugee Fund.

What measures could be undertaken in the short-term?

Should the inflow of irregular migrants and possible refugees continue, the Commission envisages a number of short-term measures that might be taken.

Reinforcing Frontex

  • 1) The Joint Operation EPN HERMES Extension coordinated by FRONTEX could be considerably strengthened, with additional technical resources made available by Member States, and adequate financial resources.
  • 2) It is essential that FRONTEX is finally given a stronger operational mandate through a revision of its legal basis, which the Commission tabled in February 2010 (IP/10/184)
  • 3) FRONTEX should speed up negotiations to conclude working arrangements with the countries of origin and transit of irregular migration in the Mediterranean in the region (for example, with Egypt, Morocco and Turkey), and receive a mandate to negotiate similar working arrangements with other relevant countries (for instance Tunisia)

Resettlement of third country nationals

The continuous and possible increase in the flow of refugees (e.g. Somalis, Eritreans etc.), in need of international protection, coming from Libyan territory is an issue of major concern. The EU will not only continue to provide humanitarian assistance through its humanitarian office (ECHO), but it is also ready to offer through the European Refugee Fund financial support in view of facilitating the resettlement of persons in need of international protection. Resettlement represents not only a life-saving measure for the refugees concerned, but is also an important responsibility-sharing gesture towards the countries hosting them. Showing solidarity with the countries neighbouring Libya that are under pressure through resettlement can help to maintain ‘protection space’, as well as contributing to dialogue and cooperation on other issues of migration and border management.

The Commission has therefore been encouraging EU Member States to offer resettlement places, in a spirit of responsibility-sharing and in close cooperation with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). A meeting was held with Member States on 25 March at which details of the most urgent needs were explained by the UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), both of whom are actively engaged on the ground in the region.

The current crisis in the Mediterranean clearly demonstrates how imperative it is that the Council and the European Parliament make an effort to rapidly reach an agreement on the adoption of the Commission’s proposal for the establishment of an EU joint resettlement programme. This proposal would provide a structured basis for annual priority-setting, and linking those priorities with financial incentives, thereby encouraging more Member States to become involved in resettlement activities, and enhancing practical cooperation between Member States to that end.

Solidarity / Temporary Protection Directive

In the event of a massive inflow of persons who are likely to be in need of international protection, the Commission would expect Member States to demonstrate concrete solidarity with each other by directly assisting the States bearing the greatest burden. This could involve the relocation to other Member States of some persons seeking protection, or who have already received an international protection status.

Concrete assistance could likewise be provided by the newly-created European Asylum Support Office, one of whose central tasks is coordination of assistance to Member States whose asylum systems are under exceptional pressure. This could involve the deployment of so-called ‘asylum support teams’ to reinforce the capacities of a State to process asylum claims and to ensure appropriate reception conditions for asylum seekers.

The Commission would also be ready to consider proposing the use of the mechanism foreseen under the 2001 Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC), if the conditions foreseen in the directive are met. Consideration could only be given to taking this step if it is clear that the persons concerned are likely to be in need of international protection, if they cannot be safely returned to their countries-of-origin, and if the numbers of persons arriving who are in need of protection are sufficiently great. Resort to this mechanism would allow for the immediate protection and reception in the territory of EU Member States for persons concerned, as well as offering a “breathing space” for the national asylum systems of the Member States most directly affected.

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Click here for full Statement.

1 Comment

Filed under European Union, Frontex, Italy, Libya, Malta, Mediterranean, News, Statements, Tunisia

One response to “Statement: European Commission’s response to the migratory flows from North Africa

  1. Pingback: Shackled by Schengen – time for a policy rethink? « Civitas

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