Saturday

20th Apr 2019

Opinion

Managing migration: a European responsibility

  • "In the months to come, we will continue to come forth with new, creative ideas that can help drive solutions in this area," writes Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for migration. (Photo: European Commission)

Europe continues to face migratory pressures, but the difference between now and just two years ago is like night and day.

The European Commission is not just discovering this issue now.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • EU countries are expected to say by September how many refugees they would be willing to resettle over the next year. (Photo: Save the Children)

When Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker took office, he created the position of EU migration commissioner because he knew that migration had to be the number one priority for our mandate.

I was proud to take up the challenge and, since then, we have been working together on a European approach to dealing with migration. We have already made enormous progress - achieving more in the past two years than what was possible in the twenty before it.

From saving lives at sea, to tackling the root causes of migration, to reducing flows by working with third-country partners, to protecting our borders with the new European Border and Coast Guard, to opening safe and legal pathways of resettlement, to showing solidarity at home to the most affected member states, and abroad to neighbouring countries hosting large numbers of refugees - our comprehensive approach is already showing concrete results.

Progressively, a more united approach for dealing with migration is emerging. But there is still work to be done to build up the trust between us and forge a coherent and comprehensive way of both reaping the benefits and addressing the challenges of migration in the long-term.

The Mediterranean Route

Supporting our most affected member states and stemming flows along the Central Mediterranean Route is on the top of our agenda.

In the Eastern Mediterranean, we brought the situation under control.

Since the EU-Turkey Statement was agreed in March 2016, the daily crossing from Turkey to Greece went down from 10,000 in a single day in October 2015 to an average of around 80 a day.

Overall, arrivals to the Greek islands from Turkey have dropped by 97%.

But Libya is not Turkey and we cannot have the same type of arrangement with Libya as we do with Turkey.

Instead, our action in the Central Mediterranean has to focus on saving lives at sea, working to improve conditions where we can in Libya, helping migrants stranded there to return to their countries of origin, and discouraging illegal and dangerous boat crossings.

One crucial piece of the puzzle in achieving this is opening up safe and legal pathways for genuine refugees. Europe must still live up to its humanitarian obligation to assist those fleeing war and persecution.

In July, we asked all EU countries to tell us, by September, how many refugees they would be willing to resettle from Libya and the neighbouring countries over the next year. The EU will continue to support these efforts, mobilising €10,000 for every person a member state resettles.

Member state support

I hope that all member states will contribute to these efforts to stem flows along the Central Mediterranean Route.

They can do this by contributing more funds to the EU-Africa Trust Fund to address the root causes of migration, contributing personnel to the EU agencies active in Italy and opening up places for the legal resettlement of genuine refugees directly from Libya and the neighbouring countries.

We already have some positive examples, such as our cooperation with Niger, which has drastically reduced transit flows through the country, but which now need to be reproduced elsewhere.

Another crucial element remains return and readmission. This is where the EU now needs to bring its weight to bear, to ensure non-EU countries cooperate on taking back their nationals arriving as economic migrants.

Going forward, we need to be bolder. Our visa policy could, for example, be used as leverage, if needed, on countries such as Bangladesh, to speed up the readmission of migrants arriving in Italy. I trust we will be able to count on the member states' support in these efforts.

In the months to come, we will continue to come forth with new, creative ideas that can help drive solutions in this area. And we will continue to press ahead to reach a balanced compromise on the reform of EU asylum law.

For the Commission, this compromise has to be based on everyone showing solidarity, and must be in the interest of the whole European Union.

I am confident that together we can live up to the challenge of migration. More than that, if we work together, I am convinced that we can reap the benefits.

Dimitris Avramopoulos is the European Commissioner for migration, home affairs and citizenship.

Refugees in limbo on Greek island

Out of sight and out of space: a volunteer documents the conditions, and the state of limbo experienced by refugees on the Greek island of Chios.

How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament

British plans to - maybe - take part in EU elections risk legal chaos in the next European Parliament, which could be resolved only by treaty change - an unlikely prospect.

Press freedom and the EU elections

We are campaigning for the next European Commission to appoint a commissioner with a clear mandate to take on the challenge of the protection of freedom, independence and diversity of journalism.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  2. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  3. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute
  4. Brunei defends stoning to death of gay men in EU letter
  5. US Democrats side with Ireland on Brexit
  6. Wifi or 5G to connect EU cars? MEPs weigh in
  7. How Brexit may harm the new EU parliament
  8. EU parliament backs whistleblower law

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us