The European Agenda on Migration adopted by the Commission in May 2015 set out the need for a comprehensive approach to migration management. Since then, a number of measures have been introduced – including the adoption of two emergency schemes to relocate 160,000 people in clear need of international protection from the Member States most affected to other EU Member States, and the endorsement of the Commission Action Plan on Return.
On 23 September, the European Commission presented a set of priority actions to implement the European Agenda on Migration to be taken within the next six months. This included both short term actions to stabilise the current situation as well as longer term measures to establish a robust system that will bear the test of time.
The list of priority actions set out the key measures immediately required in terms of: (i) operational measures; (ii) budgetary support and (iii) implementation of EU law.
The list was endorsed by the informal meeting of Heads of State and Government of 23 September 2015 and again on 15 October 2015.
These measures now need to be swiftly and effectively implemented at all levels.
Financial pledges: At the informal meeting of Heads of State and Government of 23 September, Member States recognised the need to deploy additional national funding. They repeated their commitment at the European Council on 15 October. The Commission has already proposed amendments to its 2015 and 2016 budgets, boosting the resources devoted to the refugee crisis by €1.7 billion. This means that the Commission will spend €9.2 billion in total on the refugee crisis in 2015 and 2016. Member States committed to deploying national funding to match. However, a large number of Member States still need to match EU funding for the UNHCR, World Food Programme and other relevant organisations (€500 million), the EU Regional Trust Fund for Syria (€500 million) and the Emergency Trust Fund for Africa (€1.8 billion).
Relocation Schemes: The measures proposed by the Commission and adopted by the Council on 14 September and 22 September to relocate 160,000 people in clear need of international protection will allow for a significant, if partial, reduction of the pressure on the most affected Member States. It is of crucial importance that these measures will now be fully implemented. To allow these schemes to function effectively, Member States must swiftly respond to the call for national experts to support the work in the hotspots, notify the Commission of their reception capacities, and identify the national contact points who will coordinate relocations with Greece and Italy as well as national resettlement efforts.
Hotspot Approach: Central to the EU’s strategy and credibility is to demonstrate that the migration system can be restored to proper functioning, in particular by using Migration Management Support Teams deployed in ‘hotspots’ to help Member States under the most intense pressure to fulfil their obligations and responsibilities. For the Support Teams to work they need a strong core of EU Agencies, the closest of cooperation with the authorities in Italy and Greece, and the support of other Member States.
Returns: Ensuring effective returns is a core part of the work of the Migration Management Support Teams in ‘hotspot’ locations. This also requires efficient systems to be in place inside the EU for issuing and enforcing return decisions. Concrete steps have been taken over the past month to develop a system of integrated return management and to make use of the EU’s information exchange systems to include return decisions and entry bans. Member States’ return agencies must also be given the necessary resources to perform their role. Member States should swiftly implement the EU action plan on return proposed by the Commission and endorsed by Member States at the October 2015 the Justice and Home Affairs Council.
Support for Countries Triggering the EU Civil Protection Mechanism: The EU Civil Protection Mechanism is designed to offer practical support to countries overwhelmed by a crisis situation. Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia are currently calling on its support. The Mechanism can mobilise various types of in-kind assistance, including teams and equipment, shelter, medical supplies and other non-food items, as well as expertise. A call is issued by the country activating the Mechanism, and participating States provide the assistance in response to the identified needs. The Commission has increased the amount of co-financing it will provide for the transport of relief items and experts during the current refugee crisis. So far, too few Member States have responded to these calls, and a large number of resources must still be provided for Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia to cope with the current situation.