Migrant Crisis Is a European Issue

Legal - March 1, 2024

Since 2015, the European Union has been experiencing an unprecedented migration crisis. Thus, for almost ten years, European countries have been facing daily landings on their shores, having to accommodate thousands of people within the EU borders. 

For this reason, it was necessary to develop and implement a European migration policy based on the principles of effectiveness, humanity and security. It was therefore crucial that the European Council identified strategic priorities, giving some lines of action to deal with a problem that has been growing more and more over the years, particularly affecting the southern Mediterranean countries.

The migrant crisis has become unmanageable, especially for the primary host countries, especially since the end of 2022. In 2023, the situation has not improved and on the contrary, the international scenario increasingly poses complex issues to be addressed, first and foremost the crisis in Tunisia. 

During the European Council held in Brussels on 23 and 24 March 2023, the need for a common European approach to the migrant issue became clear. 

An important signal came from the EU Commission, which will not only have to present the results of its actions during the next European Council on 29 and 30 June, but which, among other things, was also engaged in missions in Africa, a clear message of the will to act also and above all in the countries of origin, from which many are forced to emigrate because of social instability and few future prospects, especially in terms of work.

In recent months, another important step was also taken by the European Council itself. In fact, on 8th June, the Council reached agreement on two fundamental regulations on asylum and migration. 

The first regulation, which is the ‘asylum procedure regulation’ (shortly, APR) establishes a common procedure across the EU that member states need to follow when people seek international protection.

The regulation provides for a new and common procedure valid throughout the EU. Thus, all member states will follow the same steps when receiving an application for international protection. It includes a rationalisation of procedures and their duration. In addition, it provides rules for the rights of asylum seekers, such as the right to an interpreter or a legal assistant.  The regulation also aims to prevent abuse of the system by establishing clear obligations for applicants to cooperate with the authorities throughout the procedure.

In addition, compulsory border procedures are introduced. This novelty will make it possible to quickly assess applications at the EU’s external borders and determine whether they are unfounded or inadmissible. Also relevant is the fact that all people subject to the asylum procedure at the border are not allowed to enter the territory of the Member State. The procedure is mandatory for Member States when the applicant represents a danger to national security or public order, has misled the authorities by presenting false information or omitting information, and when the applicant is a national of a country with a recognition rate of less than 20%.

Another innovative aspect concerns the duration of the asylum and return procedure at the border. This procedure should henceforth not exceed six months.

In order to carry out border procedures following the procedures and the timesheets provided by the new law, Member States must have adequate capacity, in terms of reception and human resources, to process a defined number of applications and to execute return decisions at any given time.

The other regulation, the “asylum and migration management regulation” (AMMR) should replace, once agreed, the current Dublin regulation. With this new regulation the Dublin rules, that determine which member state is responsible for the examination of an asylum application, will be simplified and the time procedures will be reduced. 

So, the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation will streamline these rules and shorten time limits. As an example, the current very lengthy and complex procedure of taking back an applicant to the Member State responsible for his application will be replaced by a simple notification of taking back. This will make the procedure much easier for both the institutions involved and the migrants.

A new solidarity mechanism is also imagined in order to balance the current system. In this view, the new system will be simpler, predictable and practicable. Indeed, currently only a few member states are responsible for the vast majority of asylum applications, which is something to change immediately. The new rules combine mandatory solidarity with flexibility for member states as regards the choice of the individual contributions. These contributions concern relocation, financial contributions or alternative solidarity measures, such as the deployment of personnel or capacity-building measures. Member States have full discretion as to the type of solidarity with which they contribute. No Member State will ever be obliged to carry out relocation.

Another innovation is the identification of a minimum number of relocations per year, so that migrants will also have to be relocated to those Member States that are less exposed to arrivals. The minimum number of relocations to be carried out is 30.000, while the minimum annual number for financial contributions will be set at € 20.000 per relocation. There may be a readjustment of these figures, considering the whole international and European situation.

The Asylum and Migration Management Regulation also provides for measures to prevent abuse by asylum seekers and to avoid secondary movements. For example, an obligation is established for asylum seekers to apply in Member States of first entry or legal residence. In this way, secondary movements are discouraged, reducing the possibility for migrants to arbitrarily choose their country of placement.

Finally, on the subject of the responsibility of states in migration matters, the regulation states that the Member State of first entry will be responsible for the asylum application for a period of two years. In the event that a country intends to transfer a person to the Member State actually responsible for the migrant and that person becomes untraceable, responsibility will pass to the transferring Member State after three years. And, if a Member State reject an applicant under the border procedure, its responsibility for that person will end after 15 months.

Both regulations approved by the Council are part of the famous Pact on Migration and Asylum, which has undergone several changes since 2016, including the well-known 2020 one.

The approval of these two regulations is a fundamental step towards the modernization of the legislative framework in terms of migration and asylum. But the Commission’s task must also be to address all the cultural, religious and economic issues that lie at the root of the migration crisis, which has been exacerbated by the failed migration policies implemented in recent years.

The main issue, which has been too little explored so far, concerns the illegality of migrants who enter Europe’s borders unhindered by law and internal security. The European institutions must continue the reform process to ensure that the Member States, especially those most affected, adopt all the mechanisms and legal instruments they need to stem this dramatic emergency. 

Migration is one of the greatest challenges of our century. The European institutions must become increasingly committed to it, finding effective solutions that meet the needs of both the European countries of destination and the states of origin. The European commitment must be shared, it must concern each Member State and therefore the European Union as a whole. These recent regulations are a step forward in this long journey, but certainly not enough to solve the whole issue.