From the blog

New EU Asylum and Migration Pact

This week we had a new pact on Migration and Asylum in EU. The Commissioner of the commission with the most insulting name , for Europeans and non Europeans, the one called Promoting the European Way of Life, announced the set of proposals which were welcomed with mixed feelings, even inside EU.

In an article about the new pact, the title was “New EU migration pact driven by political compromise, not humanitarianism”, as if there is something in EU that is not based on compromise.

The 27 states have not the same economies and thus not the same interest when it comes in policies. It was obvious during the financial crisis of 2008 but also the migration wave of 2015. The Dublin treaties/Regulations usefulness became obvious to everybody during the 2015 migration wave to Europe. They are in place in order to protect the rich north economies from the irregular migration, by transforming the Mediterranean countries of Spain, Italy and Greece in prisons for the immigrants and allow only a controlled flow of them to the “promised lands”.

Dublin treaties

The obvious problem until now with the previous policies, deriving from the Dublin treaties, was that the weight on handling the immigrants was disproportionate between the states that they had to imprison them and the ones, as the so called Visegrád group, who didn’t want to get any in their soil.

In between there were states who accepted immigrants but who also discovered that a decision like that has political implications. Mainly the rise of the extreme right in all the countries that hosted immigrants from the 2015 wave.

Infographic: The Relentless Rise Of Populism In Europe | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

The “jailer-States”, being bound from the treaties, the only thing that could ask was for money, but still money is not endless. All the 3 southern members were hit hard from the financial crisis of 2008 and the refugee crisis of 2015 found them unprepared. The opening of the borders after Mrs. Merkel said “we can manage it” produced more problems than solutions. More migrants decide o follow the “Balkan route”, so more migrants came to Greece, but also it produced internal problems to Germany as also in EU.

The solution was to reenact the Dublin treaties and keep the new migrant fluxes in camps in Italy and Greece, and provide also some money for the facilities where the migrants were hosted. The Dublin treaties in combination with local asylum laws, keep for a long time immigrants away from their original target and with the bureaucracy in the entrance countries many immigrants stay in those camps for years.

The EU officials claimed that this new pact solves those problems. Is it like this?

part of Moria Camp
Moria camp in Greece from Fotomoviento with CC licence

The new pact

In the official EU page about the pact it says :

Based on a holistic assessment, the Commission is proposing a fresh start on migration: building confidence through more effective procedures and striking a new balance between responsibility and solidarity.

Their main problem is how the “burden” of migrants is divided in all members, so it is not about the migrants itself but about responsibility and solidarity BETWEEN the member states, something that might solve the problems of the member states but not necessarily the problems of the migrants.

According EU we have the following key points in the new pact:

        • Building confidence: new balance between responsibility and solidarity
        • Clear responsibilities through better, modernised procedures
        • A new mechanism for constant solidarity

Lets see how each point translates for the migrants.

One of the proposed policies is the adoption of Asylum law reforms proposed in 2016 that the bring stronger rights, more efficiency.

Why those reforms weren’t adopted 4 years now? Cause as it seems they are talking about them for 4 years now, since in Brussels there are bureaucrats and while they are talking people had to live like animals in places as Moria. An article, not well written, but if one has the patience one could probably understand how bureaucratic EU can be, can be found here.

The first point describes a new way of procedures in the entry point for EU. Better use of IT systems in order to identify the migrant, full medical check up and a clear road after this. Either a positive decision and a way to integration or a negative and a way to exit the EU region. The tools that will be used in this stage are, a new EU Agency for Asylum for monitoring and guidance, whatever this means, a new and improved IT system to support screening, asylum and return processes and for the returns support from Frontex, from the newly appointed EU Returns Coordinator and with the help of local national actions and last but not least return and reintegration strategy.

All the above are so many things together in so few but impressive words or meanings.

According to Euronews, experts fear that this fast procedures for identification, they say it will be a 5 days process, may lead in results that will be unfair for some migrants, since the entry point countries have a very poor record when it comes to both asylum procedures and providing reception facilities.

The involvement of FRONTEX is also controversial since the last year has led to the numbers of arrivals by sea to drop dramatically. There are also cases where Frontex has been accused by NGO’s and human rights groups of excusing abusive practices. What is positive in the new pact is that EU has moved to decriminalize sea rescue attempts.

Photo Tim Lüddemann under CC licence

Return and reintegration policy

I will just copy the key points from EU’s page :

Supporting other countries hosting refugees and host communities

Exactly as now has EU done with Turkey and Libya? By doing so Turkish regime has used the refugees as weapon every time they want to get something from EU. Either support in policies that are oppressing other nations or ethnic groups, or when they just needed more money. In Libya this support has led in camps where migrants/refugees were sold as slaves. So lets have a concentration camps of refugees in whatever conditions as long it is not in EU soil?

Creating economic opportunities close to home, especially for youth

How can somebody create economic opportunities in countries where dictators or corrupted governments are governing or in places where education is a luxury and most of the resources belong to European companies and not to the local people. Before helping with economic opportunities in some places you have to start with the basis. Clear water, education, healthcare, democracy.

Fighting migrant smuggling

A lucrative commerce that flourish as long you have restrictions in migration. So yes there is a way to fight smuggling but the only way to win is by making the smugglers obsolete.

Improving return and readmission, stepping up voluntary returns and helping reintegration

The keyword here is improving, why? Because as it seems since 2016 there is such a programm that is not so successful, not only because the flux of immigrants continues but also because studies show that it is not so easy to achieve the goals and also produces some extra problems in some regions.

For example this scientific paper claims that :

... the proposed framing and linkages between migration, security, readmission, labor mobility and trade in the cooperation between EU and West African countries would undermine the regional migration agenda in ECOWAS and lead to a rise in national tendencies and restrictive border practices in the region.

In another study, a master thesis from 2020, we can see how difficult is the repatriation of Afghan immigrants.

This thesis found the decision to return was not a choice for the participants, although some of them chose to return voluntarily, as they felt that they did not have any other options than returning to Afghanistan. […] the main challenges returnees are facing upon their return is influenced by multiple factors: the ongoing conflict and the insecurity in the country; the return policies; the JWF agreement between the Government of Afghanistan and EU;a nd the lack of protection from international actors as well as the Government in Afghanistan. […] The challenges the returnees are facing are complex and include a diversity of linked issues. The bare life of shame is a serious challenge which is hard to overcome. It ranges from the insecurity situation, the shame of returning empty-handed and the feeling of failing in the host countries.

Developing orderly channels for legal migration

Photo by mohamed hassan form PxHere under CC licence

How can this be achieved when the majority of the member states do not want migrants. Either because they think their economy can stand it or because they are just xenophobic. As far as I know 4 member states have make it clear that they do not want immigrants. I presume that they do not have any orderly channel for migration. Greece, my country, as far as I know has none. Germany has one since this March, which is not in effect mainly because of corona virus.

But lets see the whole plan of EU as key points :

Supporting legal migration with key partners, scaling up existing cooperation

Work / training mobility schemes with EU funding and matching EU vacancies and skills needs

Capacity building for vocational training and integration of returning migrants

Working together with ministries, employers and social partners, education, diaspora

From all the above the most interesting that I see is the vocational training of returning immigrants and this has its own problems. All the rest seems more as a wishful thinking than a plan. We have to wait and see how this will develop

What means Solidarity for EU

One of the main subjects of this new pact is called “A new mechanism for constant solidarity”. But what exactly means constant Solidarity for EU? Lets read what EU says that it means

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Right Education Not Deportation
Photo under CC Licene from Flickr user The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Right

Flexible options for Member State contribution:

  • Relocation of recently-arrived persons
  • Return sponsorship, whereby a Member State takes over responsibility for returning a person with no right to stay on behalf of another Member State
  • Immediate operational support, longer-term support to build capacity on asylum procedures, reception of newcomers or return operations, or assistance in responding to specific migratory trends affecting Member States through cooperation with non-EU countries

As far as I can decipher those key points, the solidarity that EU is talking about is solidarity between member states. So the ones who do not want to have migrants in their soil should pay for the repatriation of those who weren’t granted asylum and for administrative costs for the ones who keeps them.

Reactions about the pact

Euronews has a very good article where experts on migration give their opinion about the pact. The feeling is that EU wants to show that it changes a failed system (Dublin treaties), but still it gives the member state the opportunity to choose the asylum seekers. Another point that is being made from the experts in the article is that EU focuses in the irregular migrants and not on migrants in general. The problem is that there are not regular pathways to migrate in EU, or there are too few. The article is worth reading it and you can find it here.

Together with the above article there is also a smaller one where somebody can see the way that some EU members reacted and it is the members who do not like to have migrants in their soil

Barbara Wesel in Deutsche Welle has a very good opinion article, worth reading, about the new pact and she finds that this pact is a victory for the nationalists in EU. She is doubting that the plan will work better than the previous. She ends with the following questions:

Instead, there is to be a so-called solidarity mechanism. A member state that refuses to take in refugees can instead become involved in deportations. It is not quite clear how that will function in practice. But this job could be very eagerly taken on by officials in Warsaw, Prague and Budapest. In these circumstances, what is to persuade other member states not to take the same path and show their "solidarity" through deportations, as well? Who might take in displaced people at all by that point?

IOM has also published a first reaction on the pact, the main problem that they see, or at least the say that they see, is that the pact sees migration as a problem to be solved and not as part of the solution.

ECRE is an alliance of 106 NGOs across 40 European countries. ECRE’s mission is to protect and advance the rights of refugees, asylum-seekers and other forcibly displaced persons in Europe and in Europe’s external policies. As an organization the also published their critique on the new Pact which I could summarize in just one sentence from their text that you could read here

No more old wine in new bottles

In an article on the euobserver about the pact we read:

In practice, it means everyone arriving at an EU external border will have to go through security, health, and identity checks within five days. They will not be able to immediately contest those findings, which will ultimately determine their fates. The idea is to deny asylum to most people, especially anyone coming from a country where the recognition rates for international protection drops below 20 percent

At the end of this article there is also a very good example of how this new solidarity scheme will not work.

A short summary

To my understanding there will be the following plan.

  1. Frontex will focus to stop the illegal movement of people from smugglers, so stop the movement of people.
  2. The ones who manage to pass will be going in centers, again in the first country of origin and through an expedite procedure they will be granted with asylum or they will be send back home/or in the country that were before entering EU. Money will be given to those countries to keep them there, as it is happening also today. These procedure will be doen in 2 phases, one in 5 days to identify the migrant and decide if he/she gets an asylum and the second will be 12 weeks for appeal and final decision.
  3. There will be also a voluntarily repatriation program as it is also today, but better EU claims.
  4. In case of overcrowded camps EU members will decide how many they will get in their soil. The ones who do not want any migrants will pay for repatriation costs and other administrative costs.
  5. There will be legal ways to migrate in EU, but still we do not know the prerequisites

As I see it, entering in EU would become more difficult and only for the ones that can prove that they are coming from places that belong to a certain list of countries. Many asylum seekers would be deported directly from the first reception camps in no more than 12 weeks time. If we see the today numbers, that EU officials give, then about the 2/3 of the asylum seekers should be deported.

It remains to see who are the legal pathways to migrate in Europe. If I can judge from the last law in Germany, I don’t believe that there are too many chances for migrants from poor countries with a non existent education system.

Image by MAMADOU TRAORE from Pixabay under CC licence

The main reason of the irregular migration is poverty. Poverty that starts in their own country, from either a war, or a crooked government, or a dictatorship so that the few or many resources of the country can be controlled from a small group of persons that can make a deal with European, USA or Chinese companies. Which they exploit people and resources in order to make money and products who support our (western) way of life. If EU doesn’t want to have irregular migration, there are ways but not so easy as plans with fancy words