The European Union unveiled a new plan Wednesday to resettle at least 50,000 refugees, the majority of them from northern Africa.
The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, said it has set aside 500 million euros ($587 million) for the effort. It wants refugees in Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia to be the focus.
Libya is the main jumping-off point for many people willing to brave potentially perilous sea voyages across the Mediterranean in search of better lives in Europe. Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Niger — one of the main migrant transit countries in Africa — all border Libya.
Most of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean probably would not qualify for asylum in Europe, but the EU wants to make sure that genuine refugees do not have to face the dangerous sea crossing.
“Europe has to show that it is ready to share responsibility with third countries, notably in Africa. People who are in genuine need of protection should not risk their lives or depend on smugglers,” EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.
European countries are individually responsible for deciding on resettlement numbers so they cannot be legally bound by Brussels to take more people in.
The Commission also wants to set up pilot projects to help create more legal ways for nationals of countries that are cooperating with the EU to come to Europe.
The move is part of the EU’s effort to cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees and unauthorized migrants who have tried to enter Europe in recent years, undermining European solidarity as countries bickered over how to manage the problem.
The EU’s executive arm also wants to ensure that those not permitted to stay are returned to their home countries more quickly. Only around one third of those deemed ineligible are actually sent back.
“We have to be clear and brutally honest, people who have no right to stay in Europe must be returned,” Avramopoulos said.
He also said that the Commission would propose a temporary extension to allow countries like Germany, Austria, Denmark and non-EU country Norway to keep systematic ID checks in place.
Avramopoulos it would modify the rule book governing the 26-nation passport-free travel area known as Schengen, where systematic checks on all travelers are not allowed. It would authorize border checks for another two years. – associatedpress
EU Commissionner Dimitris Avramopoulos tweeted
— DimitrisAvramopoulos (@Avramopoulos) September 27, 2017
Now that irregular arrivals have fallen, we must enhance legal pathways. Proposing to support further 50000 resettlements with 500M€ pic.twitter.com/Cv1fCPeKWv
— DimitrisAvramopoulos (@Avramopoulos) September 27, 2017
In the relevant European Commission statement, we read among others:
“With over 29,000 persons relocated so far, the first ever large-scale EU-coordinated relocation mechanism has contributed to significantly reducing the pressure on the asylum systems of Italy and Greece. The immediate priority is now to ensure that all the remaining eligible persons who have arrived to Greece and Italy until September 26 are relocated swiftly. In total, around 37,000 people are expected to be effectively relocated under the scheme.”
Enhancing legal pathways: at least 50,000 new resettlement places
The Commission is recommending a new EU resettlement scheme to bring at least 50,000 of the most vulnerable persons in need of international protection to Europe over the next two years. This is part of the Commission’s efforts to provide viable safe and legal alternatives for those who risk their lives at the hands of criminal smuggling networks. The new scheme will be in place until October 2019 and will build on the current successful resettlement schemes which, having provided new homes to over 23,000 persons in the EU, are now coming to an end.
The Commission has set aside €500 million to support Member States’ resettlement efforts. Whilst resettlement from Turkey and the Middle East must continue, increased focus should be put on resettling vulnerable persons from North Africa and the Horn of Africa; notably Libya, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Chad and Ethiopia. This will contribute to further stabilising migration flows along the Central Mediterranean route and notably support the UNHCR in establishing an emergency evacuation mechanism from Libya. Today’s recommendation follows up and complements the resettlement pledging exercise launched on 4 July 2017 which has so far resulted in 14,000 pledges by 11 Member States. It will serve to bridge the period until the new permanent EU Resettlement Framework, proposed by the Commission in July 2016, is adopted.
In addition, the Commission encourages Member States to set up private sponsorship schemes allowing private groups or civil society organisations to organise and finance resettlements in accordance with national legislation. To this effect, the Commission has invited EASO to coordinate a pilot project on private sponsorship schemes with interested Member States.
To turn irregular flows into needs-based economic migration to EU Member States, the Commission is proposing to coordinate and financially support pilot projects for legal migration with third countries. They should focus initially on countries which have shown political engagement in finding joint solutions to tackle irregular migration and readmission of irregular migrants. The European Parliament and the Council should also swiftly come to an agreement and adopt the Commission proposal for a revised EU Blue Card which will improve the EU’s ability to attract and retain highly skilled workers and ensure that Member States can rely on the work force they need, when they need it.
The EU’s common visa policy is also an essential instrument for mobility, notably facilitating tourism and business, but also a key tool to prevent security risks or risks of irregular migration. The Commission will assess whether the current visa policy still matches present and future challenges, and will reflect on the need to modernise it.
A more effective EU policy on return
With return rates remaining unsatisfactory (around 36% in 2014-2015) and an estimated 1.5 million people to be returned from EU Member States in the near future, the Commission proposes to step up return efforts on all fronts. The Return Department will be significantly reinforced within the European Border and Coast Guard to ensure the Agency can implement a truly proactive return management approach and drive and coordinate the EU-wide management of returns.
Member States need to further streamline their return policies in line with the 2017 Commission Recommendation and the Renewed Action Plan on Returns and in close cooperation with the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. To this effect, the Commission is today publishing a revised Return Handbook that integrates all these recommendations to national authorities on returns. Member States at the external borders can, where appropriate, use the hotspot approach to ensure that return operations can be managed swiftly, in particular in situations of significant arrival surges.
To increase cooperation on readmission by countries of origin, all incentives and leverages available at EU and national level must be applied.
Ps I probably will need to read the whole Return handbook to be able to understand the new relocation scheme.