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Brussels, 4 May 2011

Frequently Asked Questions: Addressing the Migratory Crisis

1. What is the situation in the Mediterranean?

The historical events that have occurred in the Southern Mediterranean since the end of 2010 have provided a unique opportunity for the people of those countries to more freely express their wish for democracy, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. An indirect consequence of these events has been a significant movement of populations, mainly from North African countries towards their immmdiate neighbours, but also towards the European Union.

According to the latest estimates, more than 650,000 persons have left the territory of Libya to flee the violence there. These people have found hospitality in neighbouring countries, primarily in Tunisia and Egypt, and many have since managed to return, or been assisted in their return to their respective home countries.

More than 25,000 migrants, mainly from Tunisia and, to a lesser extent from other African countries, have fled towards the EU, reaching the shores of Italy (most to the island of Lampedusa) and Malta, both of which are now under strong migratory pressure.

In addition to displaced people and migrants, a considerable number of refugees of different nationalities, including Somalis, Eritreans and Sudanese, have left Libya, some of whom have also reached Italy and Malta.

2. What has the Commission done so far to address the migration crisis in the Mediterranean?

Urgent short-term measures have already been taken to deal with the humanitarian situation in North Africa and with pressures on frontline Member States (notably Italy and Malta).

So far, a total EU contribution of about €100 million, of which approximately €49 million provided by the Commission, has been mobilised to manage the humanitarian emergency generated by the sudden inflows of refugees and displaced persons in the countries neighbouring Libya. Jointly with the funds provided by other international donors, this support has made it possible to offer temporary shelter to refugees and displaced persons, to meet their basic needs and to assist their return to their countries of origin.

In February, FRONTEX launched the Joint Operation EPN Hermes Extension 2011, to help Italy deal with vessels carrying migrants and refugees. EUROPOL has also deployed a team of experts to Italy, to help its law enforcement authorities identify possible criminals among the irregular migrants having reached the Italian territory.

Around €25 million have been earmarked under the External Borders Fund and European Refugee Fund to help those Member States most exposed to the growing flows of refugees and irregular migrants with the financial consequences of these displacements.

3. Is the EU fully equipped to react to the migratory flows?

While the EU response to the emergency situation has been comprehensive, the current crisis has exposed the fact that there are still ways in which the EU can better deal with such situations and with migration management generally. The difficulties essentially relate to two categories of issues:

  • Firstly, the EU financial resources available under the General programme "Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows" (which includes the European Refugee Fund, the Return Fund, the Integration Fund and the Borders Fund) are not entirely adequate to respond to all requests for assistance. These funds are designed to intervene in a stable situation and not to tackle emergencies and crises. In the context of the preparation of the next Multi-Annual Financial Framework, the European Parliament, the Council and the Commission will have to draw on the lessons learnt from the current events and consider ways of making EU funding for Home Affairs more adapted to the needs identified.

  • Secondly, increased solidarity at EU level and a better sharing of responsibility is necessary. EU Member States need to step up their efforts to alleviate burdens on the most affected Member States, for instance by contributing in an increased manner to joint operations carried out by the EU Agencies, by committing more to relocation, etc. This kind of solidarity is dependent on the will and commitment of Member States and the Commission cannot impose it. Nevertheless, the Commission intends to make further proposals on delivering solidarity in a holistic manner; which will include the possiblity of ad hoc measures that can be resorted to in case of particular temporary pressure on one or several Member States. These proposals will also address more structural means of ensuring solidarity, both financial and in the form of practical cooperation and technical assistance.

4. In addition to its immediate reaction, what other concrete measures does the Commission envisage?

The Commission foresees a whole set of initiatives in the coming weeks and months (see the catalogue in annex), notably a migration "package" to be presented on the 24th of May. These initiatives will principally deal with the following areas:

Border control and Schengen governance: border control and Schengen governance need to be strengthened to prevent irregular migration, to ensure that each Member State effectively controls its own portion fo the EU's external borders, and to build trust in the effectiveness of EU system of migration management. For this to be achieved, the following areas need to be adressed as a priority:

  • The European Parliament and the Council should urgently adopt the Commission proposal to strengthen the FRONTEX mandate (so that FRONTEX can act more effectively at the external border)

  • The Commission proposed a Regulation on the establishment of an evaluation mechanism to verify the correct application of the Schengen acquis. The current Schengen Evaluation Mechanism still relies on an intergovernmental system of peer reviews to ensure the application of the common rules. In the light of recent experiences, the adoption of the Commission's proposal must be a priority if we are to ensure that the EU is better equipped to enforce a unifrom application of the rules.

  • The Commission will propose intensified coordination of border surveillance (which is the purpose of the European Border Surveillance System – EUROSUR) and will consider the feasibility of creating a European system of borders guards (the idea being to create a common culture among national authorities, shared capacities and standards, supported by practical cooperation).

  • A mechanism will be considered to address the possible failure by a Member States to fulfil its obligation to patrol its part of the external border. This mechanism could include the possibilty of temporarily reintroducing internal border controls, under certain conditions.

  • The return acquis should be properly implemented and the EU should reorient its readmission negotiation strategy to enhance incentives for the conclusion and effective implementation of the EU readmission agreements.

  • The establishment of a European entry-exit system, ensuring that data on the crossing of the border by third country nationals is available for border control and immigration authorities, and of a registered traveller programme allowing third country nationals to use automated border control making acess to the EU easier will also be considered.

External dimension, visa policy and long term relations with the Southern Mediterranean: Relations with third countries on migration-related issues should be characterised by a strategic approach aimed at facilitating the movement of persons, combined with measures to discourage irregular migration. As regards the Southern Mediterranean countries, long-term relations with the EU need to be built on partnerships which extend beyond migration issues alone (starting with a revision of European Neighbourhood Policy) and allow scope for enhanced legal migration possibilities, such as:

  • introducing a systematic post-visa liberalisation monitoring mechanism with the possibility of suspending the visa waiver in cases where it leads to abuse or to large-scale irregular migration.

  • stepping-up the dialogue with and assistance to third countries in the context of the global approach to migration, with the aim ofbetter organising legal migration, reinforcing the fight against irregular migration and maximising the mutual benefits of migration for development.

  • establishing a strucutred dialogue on migration, mobility and security with the EU's Southern Mediterranean partners The Commission hopes to further develop Mobility Partnerships which will ensure that the movement of persons between the EU and its partner countries is well managed and takes place in a secure environment.

Legal migration and integration: the current migration crisis in the Mediterranean should not overshadow the key contribution that migrants make to the EU. Migrants bring economic dynamism and new ideas and help create new jobs. They also help fill gaps in the labour market that EU workers cannot, and contribute to addressing the demographic challenges the the EU faces. There is, however, a need for a better organistion of legal migration at the EU level. Specifically:

  • anagreement must be reached on the 2007 Commission proposal on the "Single Permit" which will simplify administrative procedures for migrants and give a clear and common set of rights.

  • the "Blue Card" Directive must be fully transposed by Member States so that it can contribute to making the EU an attractive destination for highly skilled migrants, as global demand for high skilled workers increases.

  • the work on the proposals on seasonal workers and intra-corporate transfereeds must be pursued.

  • a European Agenda for the Integration of third country nationals will soon be proposed, focusing on migrants' participation in receiving countries, action at the local level and the involvement of countries of origin in the integration process.

Asylum: The EU must live up to its vocation to offer a haven to those in need of protection. It is time to complete the Common European Asylum System by reaching agreement, by 2012, on the asylum package currently on the table. To achieve this:

  • The Commission will soon present modified proposals on the Reception Conditions and the Asylum Procedures Directives, to provide impetus to stalled Council negotiations. A balanced agreement on the revision of the Dublin Regulation must be reached, including on a last resort emergency mechanism in case of exceptional pressures. We also need an agreementon on the revised Eurodac system, a fingerprint database for identifying asylum seekers and irregular border-crossers.

  • The European Asylum Support Office will become fully operational in June and will contribute to strengthened practical cooperation.

  • Regional Protection Programmes that aim to help third countries in managing asylum and refugee flows needs to be further developed. At the same time, the resettlement of refugees by EU Member States must become an integral part of EU asylum policy. In this regard, the Commission hopes that the European Parliament and the Council will be able to adopt the EU joint ressettlement scheme proposed by the Commission in 2009.

For more information

See IP/11/532


Commission's initiatives linked to the Communication

Reference N°

Full title

Crossing the external borders and mobility


Commission Decision on local Schengen cooperation

June 2011


Recommendation amending COM Recommendation establishing a common Practical Handbook for Border Guards

June 2011


Commission Decision amending the Visa Code Handbooks

June 2011


Commission Decision amending the SIRENE Manual

May 2011


Commission proposal to amend EP and Council Regulation 539/2001 on visas

24 May 2011


Communication on programmes for regional consular cooperation and setting up of common application centers

November 2011


Legislative proposal defining the objective, scope and the technical and operational framework of the European Border Surveillance System (EUROSUR)

December 2011


Communication on Smart Borders (Entry Exit System and Registered Travellers Programme)

September 2011


Communication on enhanced Intra-EU solidarity

November 2011

Moving and living in an area without internal borders

Schengen: a mechanism for a coordinated and temporary reintroduction of controls, to be added to the Commission proposal on evaluation of Schengen


Migration and Asylum in the EU in 2010 (Second annual Report on the Immigration and Asylum Pact), accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Paper

24 May 2011


Communication on an EU agenda for integration, accompanied by a Commission Staff Working Paper

24 May 2011


Green paper on Addressing labour shortages through migration in the EU Member States, in cooperation with DG EMPL.

October 2011


Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on the application of Directive 2003/109/EC on the status of third-country nationals who are long-term residents

September 2011


Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and to the Council on the application of Directive 2004/114/EC on the conditions of admission of third-country nationals for the purposes of studies, pupil exchange, unremunerated training or voluntary service.

September 2011


Report on Directive 2005/71/EC on admission of third country nationals for the purpose of scientific research and possible follow-up

December 2011


Green paper on Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification

November 2011

Communication on EU Policy on Return


Providing international protection to persons in need


Modified proposal on the Asylum Procedures Directive

1st June 2011


Modified proposal on the Reception Conditions Directive

1st June 2011

Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person

Already tabled

Amended proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on the establishment of 'EURODAC'

Already tabled

Proposal for a Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as beneficiaries of international protection and the content of the protection granted

Already tabled

Commission's proposal on a EU Joint Resettlement Program

Already tabled

The Global Approach to Migration

Communication "A dialogue for migration, mobility and security with the Southern Mediterranean"

24 May 2011


Commission proposal for the Council decisions concerning the signature and conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and the Republic of Cape Verde on mobility and readmission

November 2011


Communication on the evaluation and future development of the Global Approach to Migration

November 2011


CSWP on Migration and Development

November 2011


CSWP on Migration and Climate Change

November 2011


Action Plan on cooperation with Eastern Partnership countries

September 2011

Commission proposal for the Council decisions concerning the signature and conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and Armenia on visa facilitation and readmission

July 2011

Commission proposal for the Council decisions concerning the signature and conclusion of the agreement between the European Community and Azerbaijan on visa facilitation and readmission

July 2011

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