A surge in human mobility – from tourists to terrorists, from students to refugees – compels us to change how we think about migration, citizenship, health and development. By 2030 global tourism is expected to approach 2 billion. Migration along south-south – and to a lesser extent south-north – routes is accelerating as a result of conflict, repression, economic disparity, demographic imbalances and climate change. The European Union has taken important steps in updating its migration and asylum policy, not least in reaction to the current refugee crisis springing from conflict in Syria and elsewhere. The Union is conscious of its own history as a continent shaped by migration and committed to helping and protecting those that seek protection and shelter on its territory. Yet, questions of integration and distribution pose challenges for the Union and its Member States.
Although casualties on the battlefield have decreased significantly over time, we have seen a dramatic rise in civilian victims and refugees: more than 50 million people are displaced worldwide. The consequences of this human tragedy will reverberate across regions and generations – including within the EU. Populism and racism could feed fortress Europe mentalities, undermining credible enlargement and neighbourhood policies, forthcoming migration and mobility policies, and even trade liberalisation.
In light of mounting migration and refugee challenges, the Commission’s Agenda on Migration aims to strengthen Europe’s capabilities by assigning additional resources to its Agencies and by integrating the external and internal dimensions of migration management, as well as by tackling the root causes of the phenomenon in the long-term. Rising to the migration and refugee challenge and doing so in full respect of human rights and international law is a vital interest at the very core of the EU's values.
In migration policy, the EU has a border cooperation agency (FRONTEX), an agency supporting Member States in the field of Asylum (EASO), a new Europol-run intelligence centre aimed at countering migrant smuggling, as well as an Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund. The EU can offer market access, assistance and mobility to neighbouring countries, and has been rolling out regional protection programmes to help nearby states absorb refugee flows. The EU is also strengthening cooperation with origin countries through dialogues in the context of the Rabat, Khartoum, Budapest and Prague processes. Collective action is being taken to save lives and cope with mounting pressures through increased solidarity, intelligence sharing and partnerships with transit and origin countries, as well as with the international community.
Mobility partnerships and visa facilitation between the EU and its partners remain underexploited, however. Also, synergy between migration, trade and development policies is insufficient, as are the linkages between internal and external policies in this regard. When it comes to transit countries, the EU insufficiently factors in the ties between migration control, labour mobility and trade to enhance incentives for cooperation on border management and readmission. For the migrants’ countries of origin, the effective implementation of regional migration strategies hinges on better coordination with development policy and greater insight from diplomatic resources and local partners, including civil society.
A joined-up approach to migration prevents the emergence of policy silos. But this also requires the end of geographical silos. Instruments to fight smuggling and trafficking conceived for Syria ought to be relevant for the Horn of Africa, the Balkans and Ukraine, too.