This page includes news on the most recent development in the field of migration and asylum at European level. On a regular basis, the ISMU Foundation gathers information on the latest legislative proposals, declarations, decisions and opinions issued by European Institutions and agencies, Council of Europe, academia and civil society. More specifically, this section focusses on social inclusion and interfaith dialogue and other migration-related issues.
10/10: OVER THE PAST TWO WEEKS…
The past week was marked by the assessment and review of current initiatives and the launch of new actions. The European Commission presented the progress of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey with new direct grants signed in the areas of education and health on top of humanitarian aid. The EU-Afghanistan summit resulted in a commitment by the EU to securing financial assistance to Afghanistan in state-building activities and in a bilateral declaration setting out areas and terms of cooperation, that ECRE denounced as being primarily focused on returns of irregular migrants. On youth, it reported on the latest data on the Youth Guarantee and the Youth Employment Initiatives, showing its commitment to reforming the Europass Framework to help people showcase and transfer their skills and qualifications. The European Border and Coast Guard was launched in Bulgaria, following a rapid legislative process that made it operational within only one year.
The commitment to building more inclusive societies was at the core of several initiatives of institutions and civil society. The Committee of the Regions will join the annual European Week of Regions and Cities in a high level debate on the future of structural and investments funds. Eurochild praised the Maltese Presidency of the EU (Jan-Jul 2017) for its early commitment to a child-friendly and inclusive EU Agenda, while Social Platform explained why inclusive growth matters in the first place. The concepts of human rights and active citizenship were part of a Symposium on combining history and human rights education, in which FRA took part in, and the Council of Europe 3rd Compass Forum on Human Rights Education.
Last week’s interesting publications include a series of policy briefing by the European Parliament Research Service on Cohesion policy and the integration of migrants in urban areas, Growing impact of EU migration policy on development cooperation and Serbia’s role in dealing with the migration crisis, on top of a think tank review on The EU And Migration. The MPI published a series of policy papers on Development, Mobility, Protection: Building Opportunity into Refugee Solutions, while the OECD published a keynote lecture on – The Integration of Migrants and Refugees: Challenges and Opportunities.
(4/10) Facility for Refugees in Turkey: Commission Reports on Progress in Fourth Steering Committee. The European Commission reported on the solid progress made to date, including the signature of two direct grants in the areas of education and health worth €600 million and on contracts worth €422 million for humanitarian aid. Together, the two grants (€300 million for education and €300 million for health) will provide almost half a million Syrian children with access to education. The grants will also allow around two million people access to primary healthcare services through the creation of over 500 healthcare facilities, and rehabilitative mental health services for up to one million people. In addition, family planning, prevention of communicable diseases, recruitment and training of healthcare staff and outreach activities will be provided. During the meeting, the Commission also presented the EU’s flagship Emergency Social Safety Net (ESSN) humanitarian aid programme, which is set to provide a monthly electronic cash grant to benefit 1 million refugees in Turkey using direct cash-transfers to cover the everyday needs of the most vulnerable refugees in Turkey. The Commission also presented the €74 million projects for humanitarian assistance contracted this past summer. The European Commission informed representatives at the meeting of the Steering Committee that a common results framework is under preparation, which it intends to present at the next meeting of the Steering Committee. The issues of gender, age and diversity were also discussed to ensure that actions funded by the Facility are relevant to the challenges faced by all refugees. An update was provided on recent visibility activities.
(4/10) Brussels Conference on Afghanistan: the European Union announces financial assistance to support reforms in Afghanistan. The European Commission has announced new financial assistance to the Afghan Government in the form of a State-building contract. Through State-building contracts, the European Union provides direct budget support to countries in fragile and transitional situations. The Declaration “Joint Way Forward on migration issues between Afghanistan and the EU” lays down other terms of the EU-Afghanistan cooperation, namely with regard to facilitating returns of irregular migrants. The full text of the declaration is available here.
(4/10) Commission report highlights progress of the Youth Guarantee and of the Youth Employment Initiative. Today, the European Commission adopted a Communication that highlights the main achievements of the Youth Guarantee and Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) since their launch in 2013 and draws lessons on how to improve the EU and national efforts on deploying national Youth Guarantee schemes. Last year, this Commission took measures to accelerate the implementation of the Youth Guarantee by increasing the pre-financing of the Youth Employment Initiative. In his State of the Union speech of 14 September 2016, President Juncker stressed his commitment to “continue to roll out the Youth Guarantee across Europe, improving the skillset of Europeans and reaching out to the regions and young people most in need.” There are 1.4 million less young unemployed in the EU since 2013 and 900,000 less young people not in employment, education or training (NEETs). These encouraging trends suggest that the Youth Guarantee, backed up by the Youth Employment Initiative, has helped make a difference on the ground. Around 9 million young people took up an offer, the majority of which were offers of employment. Moreover, the Youth Guarantee has been a catalyst for policy change, leading to structural reforms and policy innovation across Member States. The Youth Employment Initiative, a €6.4 billion targeted financial source mobilised at EU level, has been central to the swift set-up of national Youth Guarantee schemes and has provided direct support to over 1.4 million young NEETs living in those regions most in need. The 30% increase by the Commission in advance payments of the Initiative in 2015 to the eligible Member States – amounting to around €1 billion – played a significant role to provide readily available cash liquidity, allowing to speed up the launch of measures on the ground. Given this progress, the Commission has recently proposed to extend the budget resources of the Youth Employment Initiative and provide an additional €1 billion to the YEI specific budget allocation, matched by €1 billion from the European Social Fund. These €2 billion could make it possible to support around 1 million more young people until 2020 in the Member States most affected by youth unemployment. These measures come on top of financial allocations available under the ESF. More info here.
(4/10) A New Europass Framework: helping people make their skills and qualifications more visible. The Commission has adopted a proposal to revise the Europass Decision. Europass is a suite of tools and services which support the transparency of skills and qualifications across the European Union. With this revision, the Commission aims to simplify and modernise these tools for the digital age and to add a new feature using big data to map and anticipate labour market trends and skills needs. Since it was established in 2005, more than 60 million Europass CVs have been created and hundreds of thousands of learners across the EU receive Diploma and Certificate Supplements every year which help to make their qualifications more readable and easily comparable abroad; backed-up with advice and support services on the ground in Member States. The new Europass Framework will build upon this successful formula with easy to use tools to help people identify and communicate their skills and qualifications in all EU languages. These include an improved online tool for creating CVs and skills profiles, free self-assessment tools to help you evaluate your skills, tailored information on learning opportunities across Europe, and information and support to help you get your qualifications recognised as well as labour market intelligence about what skills are most in demand and where. The new Europass Framework will also link with other EU tools and services across labour and education and training systems, such as the EURES job mobility portal, allowing for an easier exchange of information and more joined-up services for end-users. National support centres will continue to offer individual advice and guidance to help people navigate the skills and qualifications landscape.
(28/09) MEPs reject EU Budget 2017 Council cuts: more funds for migration, jobs, youth. Budget Committee MEPs reversed all the cuts proposed by the Council to the draft 2017 EU budget to meet the needs of the migration crisis and slow economic growth. They also boosted funding to fight youth unemployment and increased spending on research and infrastructure projects. In particular, Budgets committee members said that funds to tackle the external dimension of the migration and refugee crises were insufficient, particularly because of cuts to programmes such as the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) and the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP). They partly restored those cuts made by the Commission and reinstated the 2016 levels for the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) Mediterranean lines and for humanitarian aid. The details of the budget will be available shortly and a corresponding resolution will be voted on at the committee’s 11 October meeting. The whole Parliament will vote on its position on the Draft Budget 2017 on 26 October. This will kick off three weeks of “conciliation” talks with the Council, with the aim of reaching a deal between the two institutions in time for next year’s budget to be voted by Parliament and signed by its President in December.
(23/09) Lebanon: better EU resettlement tools needed to help the country deal with refugee crisis. From Syrian refugees on their way to being resettled to Europe to Palestine refugees who have been living in camps for years: members from the civil liberties committee delegation got to speak to many different people during their fact-finding mission to Lebanon on 19-22 September. They were there to assess the situation to help prepare future rules on the resettlement of refugees. They also spoke to representatives of local NGOs and large international organisations. The influx of refugees has heavily affected vital infrastructure in the country such as education and sanitation. The limitations on their right to work are leading the vast majority of Syrians into exploitation and poverty. “People are living under appalling conditions, in overcrowded apartments shared by several families in order to afford the rent or even in basement parkings, with no water, toilet or electricity,” said MEP Moraes (head of delegation). The EU has allocated more than €776 million to support vulnerable communities in Lebanon since the beginning of the crisis. However, Moraes stressed: “There is an urgent need for the EU to adopt legislative tools that actually work and can contribute to alleviate the demographic pressure on countries such as Lebanon and prevent further destabilisation in the region.”
(15/09) Parliament endorses Sir Julian King as Commissioner for Security Union. The European Parliament endorsed the candidature of Sir Julian King as Commissioner for the Security Union. He was nominated by the UK government after Lord Jonathan Hill resigned in the wake of the Brexit vote in June. As Commissioner for the Security Union, Julian King will support the implementation of the European Agenda on Security and contribute to delivering an operational and effective Security Union. He will work under the guidance of Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermanns, complementing the work of Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos, who is in charge of Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship. The European Parliament has also quizzed EU-Counter Terrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove on his plans to cooperate with newly-appointed security Commissioner Sir Julian King, information exchange, prevention strategies and the possibility of training Imams in Europe.
(15/09) New European travel document to ease return of non-EU nationals. An EU Commission proposal for a standard European travel document to speed up the return of non-EU nationals staying irregularly in EU member states without valid passports or identity cards was approved by Parliament. A key aim for MEPs has been to strengthen the form’s security features and technical safeguards, so as to promote its acceptance by third countries. Third countries are reluctant to accept the return documents provided by member states today, for reasons that include inadequate security details and varying formats, notes Parliament’s resolution approving the regulation. To enter into force, the new regulation still needs to be formally approved by the Council of Ministers. More info here.
(15/09) MEPs urge EU countries to take more asylum-seekers from Italy, Greece and Turkey. In a non-binding resolution, Parliament rejected a European Commission proposal to take 54,000 places from a scheme for relocating asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU member states, and use them to resettle Syrian refugees from Turkey in the EU instead, as part of the migration deal agreed between Turkey and EU leaders last March. Under the Commission proposal, EU countries could deduct Syrian refugees needing international protection who they take in from Turkey from the numbers of asylum-seekers whom they have pledged to relocate from Greece and Italy. The deal between Turkey and EU leaders requires the EU to take in one Syrian refugee from Turkey for each Syrian returned from the Greek islands to Turkey. Parliament objects that the intra-EU relocation scheme should not be mixed up with the resettlement one, which involves a non-EU country. “Resettlement should not take place at the expense of relocation”, says the text prepared by Ska Keller (Greens, DE). MEPs note that the need for emergency relocation from Greece and Italy to other EU member states is expected to remain high, pointing to the urgent humanitarian situation in Greece and the risk of deterioration in Italy.
COUNCIL OF THE EU/EUROPEAN COUNCIL
(6/10) Securing Europe’s external borders: Launch of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. On 6 October 2016, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency was officially launched, less than a year after it was first proposed by the Commission. The launch event took place at the Kapitan Andreevo Border Checkpoint at the Bulgarian external border with Turkey and included a presentation of the vehicles, equipment and teams of the new Agency, as well as a press conference. Building on the foundations of Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency will closely monitor the EU’s external borders and work together with Member States to quickly identify and address any potential security threats to the EU’s external borders. Under the new mandate, the Agency’s role and activities have been significantly expanded. The Agency’s permanent staff will be more than doubled and the Agency will be able to purchase its own equipment and deploy them in border operations at short notice. A rapid reserve pool of at least 1,500 border guards and a technical equipment pool will be put at the disposal of the Agency – meaning there will no longer be shortages of staff or equipment for Agency operations. The European Border and Coast Guard will now ensure the implementation of Union standards of border management through periodic risk analysis and mandatory vulnerability assessments. The European Border and Coast Guard will provide a missing link in strengthening Europe’s external borders, so that people can continue to live and move freely within the European Union – helping to meet Europe’s commitment to get back to the normal functioning of the Schengen area and the lifting of temporary internal border controls by the end of the year, as set out in the Commission’s Back to Schengen Roadmap on 4 March.
(7/10) Committee of the Regions – European week of regions and cities: Getting Europe moving through investment. The future of the EU’s regional policy post-2020, synergies between the EU structural funds and the Investment Plan for Europe and measures to remove obstacles to investment will be hot topics of the 14th European Week of Regions and Cities, co-organised in Brussels by the European Committee of the Regions and the European Commission from 10 to 13 October. Gathering thousands of project managers and beneficiaries in Brussels at a time of profound uncertainty for Europe, the week-long event will feature 130 workshops, debates and project visits with the aim of making EU financing fit for the future by increasing economic, social and territorial cohesion throughout the Union. Under the headline ‘Regions and cities for sustainable and inclusive growth’, participants will look at sustainable and inclusive economic growth as well as ways to make investment simpler. Full article here. You can follow the related news through the hashtag #EUWRC.
(6/10) FRA – Symposium focuses on combining history and human rights education. From 29-30 September in Berlin, FRA took part in the international symposium on Education for Change: Combining History and Human rights Education in Formal, Non-formal and Higher Education. The conference was hosted by the Freie Universitat Berlin, human rights education networks(link is external) and Remembrance, Responsibility, Future Foundation (EVZ Foundation(link is external)) and attended by practitioners, experts and policy makers. FRA presented its work on awareness raising including lessons learned from its projects on Holocaust and Human Rights Education. It also explored next steps in the area of citizenship, human rights education and fundamental rights promotion with experts, practitioners and policy makers.
(6/10) FRA – Expert group hears fundamental rights implications for age assessments. The Agency took part in an expert meeting on age assessment organised by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) in Malta 29 and 30 September. The Agency presented the links between fundamental rights and procedural safeguards on age assessments. This presentation and the follow-up discussions will feed into a revised edition of the 2013 EASO publication on age assessment, which will also include a number of recommendations for Member States and a checklist to ensure age assessment procedures are carried out in the best interest of the child. Member State representatives and NGOs also attended the event.
(3/10) Committee of the Regions – Citizens’ Dialogue in Gabrovo: Building trust in Europe begins with understanding the concerns of citizens. Connecting Europe with citizens is a top priority, stressed the President of the Republic of Bulgaria Rosen Plevneliev and the President of the European Committee of the Regions (CoR) Markku Markkula as the series of Citizens’ Dialogue events organised by the CoR moved to the Bulgarian city of Gabrovo on Monday. Markku Markkula said: “Today is the start of a journey. Before trying to address Europe’s many challenges – from migration to creating sustainable jobs and boosting innovation – we want to take the time to listen and understand the concerns and wishes from people living in Europe’s cities and regions. Let’s work together to build effective solutions for all citizens.” Over the weekend, Gabrovo also played host to an Innovation Camp organized in partnership by the CoR and the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission. The innovation camp concept brings together experts, stakeholders and decision-makers who aim to propose innovative solutions to societal issues and promote a local culture of innovativeness. In Gabrovo the focus was on overcoming the innovation divide in Europe and helping lagging regions to integrate smart specialisation in education.
COUNCIL OF EUROPE
(5/10) Learning Equality, Living Dignity: Forum on Human Rights Education in Budapest. The 3rd Compass Forum on Human Rights Education took place at the European Youth Centre in Budapest from 5 to 7 October. Using the slogan “Learning Equality, Living Dignity”, the forum brought together about 120 participants, including experts with extensive experience in educating young people in human rights at local, national, and international levels. Participants discussed the progress in ensuring the quality, recognition and outreach of human rights education in Europe and beyond during the past seven years since the previous forum. Also on the agenda were the challenges that professionals in formal and non-formal education face in the current social, political and economic context. They also looked at the implementation of the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education and made proposals for its future application in mainstreaming human rights education in youth work and youth policy. Full article here.
(4/10) Anti-racism commission issues new reports on the UK, Turkey and Armenia. The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has published country reports on the UK, Turkey and Armenia. In particular, in the UK, the Council of Europe’s anti-racism experts welcomed the entry into force of the Equality Act 2010, as well as the government’s new hate crime action plan and substantial efforts to promote LGBT rights, which have led to a significant change in attitudes. At the same time, the commission noted considerable intolerant political discourse in the UK, particularly focusing on immigration, a high number of violent racist incidents, including a sharp rise in anti-Muslim violence, as well as record levels of anti-Semitic incidents. Christian Ahlund the Chair of ECRI, said: “The Brexit referendum seems to have led to a further rise in ‘anti-foreigner’ sentiment, making it even more important that the British authorities take the steps outlined in our report as a matter of priority.” Full article here.
(7/10) EU strong-arms Afghanistan to accept back people in exchange for aid. In the run-up to the Brussels Donor Conference on Afghanistan on 4 and 5 October, leaked documents illustrated how the EU is pressuring Afghanistan to take back Afghan nationals who were refused international protection in Europe and failed to return voluntarily in exchange for aid. Over 85,000 Afghans applied for asylum in the EU in the first half of 2016, and 200,000 Afghans lodged a protection claim in 2015, making them the second-largest group of asylum seekers in Europe. Even though the EU acknowledges in the leaked documents that the security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating, a conclusion that EASO also came to in the recently published Country of Origin report on Afghanistan, the EU still envisages to make development aid dependent on migration management. This practice forms part of a greater strategy of tying development aid to migration management based on previous experiences with the EU-Turkey deal. Full article here.
(7/10) ECRE – New AIDA briefing on the length of asylum procedures. A new legal briefing published this week by the Asylum Information Database (AIDA) examines the length of asylum procedures across 20 European countries. The briefing analyses the transposition and implementation of time limits set out in the recast Asylum Procedures Directive for completing the regular asylum procedure, special procedures applicable to specific caseloads, as well as appeals against negative decisions. Overall, European practice confirms the non-binding character of procedural deadlines, which do not seem to be followed by asylum authorities in most cases. Full article here.
(7/10) Overcrowded hotspots in Greece: Increased policing and planned transfer of the most vulnerable to the mainland. Following the fire in the Moria hotspot on the Greek island of Lesvos, the rape of an unaccompanied minor at the same site and reports on rising opposition of local politicians and inhabitants towards refugees, the Greek Alternate Minister of Migration announced plans to address the increasingly tense situation on the island. The Minister, Ioannis Mouzalas, has proposed to focus on detecting and separating refugees and migrants involved in criminal activities in the islands from families, to transfer the most vulnerable to the mainland, and to increase policing on the islands. With the rising numbers of arrivals and staff shortages, there are currently 14,581 asylum seekers waiting in closed centres, which are designed to only accommodate 7,450 persons. The transfer of unaccompanied minors, the elderly and sick to the mainland as part of the government strategy was expected to begin this week to alleviate some of this overcrowding. Full article here.
(6/10) ECRE Comments on Reception Conditions Directive recast proposal. ECRE has published its Comments on the European Commission’s proposal to recast the Reception Conditions Directive, laying down standards for the reception of asylum seekers in the European Union. ECRE welcomes the improvements proposed by the Commission with regard to clearer, more protective definition of material reception conditions and standards applicable to all forms of accommodation, both relating to regular and exceptional reception measures taken by Member States. The provisions on contingency planning, access to the labour market and identification of special reception needs are equally positive as a general step, though the Comments provide potential improvements thereto to ensure that asylum seekers are more effectively protected in line with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and may integrate faster and better into their host countries. On the other hand, ECRE raises severe concerns as to the restrictive and punitive measures aimed at addressing secondary movements. The exclusion of applicants from reception conditions for reasons of absconding, as well as a range of preventive and punitive restrictions to the fundamental rights to free movement and liberty create strong tension with primary EU law as enshrined in the Charter, while also contradicting existing jurisprudence of European courts. Full press release here.
(5/10) Eurochild – Maltese EU Presidency: seeking leadership on children’s rights. Eurochild, a children’s rights network that puts children at the heart of European policymaking, demands the Maltese government to be a children’s rights champion during its 6-months presidency of the Council of the European Union. A set of recommendations offer concrete ways for the Maltese EU Presidency to put investing in children and their rights on the EU agenda. “Malta is setting an example by prioritizing foster care as an alternative to residential care and investing in community level services. We also welcome the increased investment in early childhood education and care and their emphasis on improving inclusive education. At its highest political level, Malta is saying investing in children is important. It’s a message we’d like others in the EU community to hear”, said Jana Hainsworth, Eurochild Secretary General. Full article here.
(3/10) Social Platform – Safe passages to the EU. Back in 2013 Social Platform called for more ways for migrants to come to the EU, especially those in the most vulnerable situations. In 2015 they repeated their message: that safe passages have to go beyond high-skilled labour migration, and also include low-skilled and domestic worker, as well as humanitarian and family sponsored schemes for protection as well as facilitation of family reunification. If a person in need of protection would have the possibility to apply for a job scheme, it would give them the chance to come to the EU in a safe manner and their knowledge and skills would be used immediately after arrival, instead of the endless waiting that refugees have to endure before they are allowed to work. Full article here.
(3/10) Social Platform – Inclusive growth – why it matters. Gilberto Pelosi reports on a conference on inclusive growth in the European Union organised by the Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel. The conference gathered together politicians, policy makers, academics, civil society organisations, and business and trade union representatives to discuss this fundamental topic. Full article here.
OECD – The Integration of Migrants and Refugees: Challenges and Opportunities (keynote lecture)
MPI – Development, Mobility, Protection: Building Opportunity into Refugee Solutions (publication series)
EPRS – Cohesion policy and the integration of migrants in urban areas (policy briefing)
EPRS – The EU And Migration (What think tanks are thinking)
EPRS – Growing impact of EU migration policy on development cooperation (policy briefing)
EPRS – Serbia’s role in dealing with the migration crisis (policy briefing)
SOS Children’s Villages International – Position paper on migrant and refugee children