EU: Tracking the Pact: Presidency placing heavy emphasis on externalisation, deportations, border controls


Discussions in the Council on the measures proposed as part of the EU's new 'Pact on Migration and Asylum' are ongoing. The aim is to find consensus on key points prior to Justice and Home Affairs Council meetings in November and December. The German Presidency set out its thinking on the proposals in a discussion paper circulated on 28 October, and published here. Externalisation, deportations, operations against migrant smuggling and tougher border controls are high on the Presidency's agenda.

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See: NOTE from: Presidency to: Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA): A new way forward on European migration and asylum policy
- Presidency discussion paper (12272/20, LIMITE, 28 October 2020, pdf)

Excerpts from the document follow, emphasis added:

"irregularly arriving persons not eligible for protection should in principle not be authorised to enter the EU, or leave the EU again as soon as possible."

This refers to the "border screening" procedure, whereby camps would be established at the EU's external borders and effectively be deemed not part of EU territory.

"Key elements of a comprehensive approach

3. The Council expressly welcomes the fact that the new Pact is designed to strengthen the external dimension of European migration policy. All aspects of migration and forced displacement can only be addressed effectively in cooperation with third countries, and through a whole-of-the-route approach. The problem of irregular arrivals to the European Union must be addressed as early as possible... North Africa, the Western Balkans, Turkey and sub-Saharan Africa and the so-called Silk Route should be prioritised, taking into account, inter alia the number of asylum seekers coming to Europe and the average EU-wide rejection rate.

4. ...Successful examples of cooperation on migrant smuggling should be replicated and expanded as part of the new action plan on migrant smuggling.

5. For this reason, a strong and effective management of the EU’s external borders must provide for an effective control of migration into the European Union. A priority of the Member States in this regard is the full implementation of the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation and thus a leading role for Frontex in the EU’s common return system, including appropriate funding.

6. Managed and orderly migration at the external borders of the EU sends a signal to the rest of the world that Europe has a strong common asylum and migration policy, under which only persons presumably entitled to protection may enter the EU. This is a key issue as such procedures help to prevent irregular primary and secondary movements. . It can build the confidence of the citizens and Member States in the area of free movement and improve the functioning and security of the Schengen area.

7. This means that the proposed pre-entry procedure, consisting of a mandatory screening (identity, health and security checks) as well as mandatory asylum and return border procedures, is in the interest of all Member States...

8. Here, it needs to be examined how:

a. to practically prevent irregular entries before completion of the procedures;
b. to establish objectively identifiable criteria for the applicability of the mandatory asylum border procedure, which are resistant to misuse;
c. to enhance the return of rejected applicants for asylum. As regards the last-mentioned aspect, the return border procedure and the solidarity provided under return sponsorships should contribute;
d. to consider the legitimate interests of vulnerable persons, especially unaccompanied minors;
e. to ensure adequate accommodation and care and prevent the overburdening in particular of border facilities and connected supply infrastructure.

Fundamental rights of persons concerned, including effective remedies, must be observed.

10. The most important solidarity provisions are those which allow a reduction of pressure on the Member States of first arrival. This confirms the importance of relocation or initiatives to increase the effectiveness of return policy, in particular return sponsorships. Support in the area of return is an important element of solidarity aiming at a clear reduction in the number of persons obliged to leave the most affected Member States.

11. Relocation or return sponsorships can be mandatorily required to ease the burden of a Member State. Further consideration should be given to the conditions under which Member States carry out relocation and return sponsorships, and to the conditions under which illegal border-crossings into Europe can be avoided.

13. A functioning asylum system requires an improved return policy at European level. This includes returns from all Member States, and the proposed return border procedure. Voluntary return with adequate measures for sustainable reintegration is a key element. The Council therefore strongly welcomes the establishment of a new assertive Return Coordinator of the Commission who is expected to play a key role in improving the effectiveness of returns and reintegration. Together with the High Level Network for Return, this will be an important step, which will help to strengthen EU return policy as required. In its engagement with third countries, the Commission should effectively reflect the EU’s interests with regard to efficient returns and sustainable reintegration.

17. Close cooperation with third countries is also essential in the key area of voluntary return and reintegration. An important part of this is identifying new approaches in partnership with third countries and better connecting them with other initiatives in the area of development cooperation and national strategies. There is also a need to develop a new approach to designing and implementing programmes in support of returns and sustainable reintegration. The Council urges the Commission to make rapid progress with the strategy on voluntary return and reintegration and to welcome input from Member States in this regard.

19. It is also essential to have a European digital infrastructure that supports European migration and asylum management. There is full support for the Commission’s aim to further intensify information sharing at European level, to be achieved largely with the implementation of the interoperability regulations. This includes creating the legal foundation for an improved EURODAC database.

20. [On legal migration] ...the vast majority of Member States however is not in favour of an expansion of the acquis to include low- and medium-skilled third-country nationals.

23. The EU’s resilience and flexibility in dealing with crisis situations should be strengthened. There is wide support for the Commission’s proposal to establish an EU mechanism for Preparedness and Management of Crises related to Migration on the basis of the Council’s Integrated Political Crisis Response arrangements, in particular the swift establishment of the EU Migration Preparedness and Crisis Management Network. The intention is to make the mechanism for preparedness and management of crises fit for the future, in line with the constant importance of monitoring and controlling migration. This includes strengthening existing early warning systems at the European level and looking into the use of further digital tools to improve forecasting capabilities. The spread of digital technology should be increased in migration management."

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