EU: Refugees: Council next steps

Finance and train Libyan Coast Guard to end arrivals to Italy - expedite "return" operations from the EU - create "reception" centres across Africa - continue actions under the "dodgy" EU-Turkey Statement - yet another call for "relocations" within the EU - redefine "safe third countries"

The Council Presidency is back at work and one of its first acts is to circulate to COREPER and the EU Council a Note on: Migration: state of play and next steps - Exchange of views (LIMITE doc no: 11836-17, pdf).

The Note opens by emphasising that the "Central Mediterranean [towards Italy] have been experiencing one of the longest lulls since the migration crisis started in 2014", "Flows in the Western Mediterranean [towards Spain] have seen a recent increase" but "there is no firm evidence of a shift from the Central Mediterranean towards this route" and "The flows in the Eastern Mediterranean route [towards Greece] have been low since April 2016 and have been relatively stable during the months of July and August, with more or less the same levels of 2016".

It proposes to "focus Ministers' discussion on the following items, which should also be treated as priority for our immediate actions and for the coming months."

1. Addressing the flows in the Central Mediterranean

"The low figures of arrivals in recent weeks represent a positive trend, which needs to be confirmed" and in particular calls for:

"Speeding up the training of the Libyan Coast Guard already at the next course starting this month, so that the Government of National Accord continues to reinforce the control of its territorial waters." [emphasis added throughout]

"Reinforcing support to border controls in Southern Libya, Niger and Chad to prevent the movement of irregular migrants towards Libya"

In line with the EU's "Partnership Framework" border controls are to be funded to stop the movement of people northwards and:

"Stepping up support to the work carried out by UNHCR and IOM in the provision of adequate reception conditions for migrants in Libya on the one hand and in the coordination of Assisted Voluntary Returns from Libya and Niger to countries of origin on the other side of Mediterranean"

The term "reception centres" are a euphemism for "holding" or "detention" centres": See Libya: Open letter - European governments are feeding the business of suffering

And see: EU accused of complicity in Libya migrant abuse (euobserver, link)

2. Improving results regarding the return of irregular migrants

"The work underway to conclude effective arrangements with third countries to expedite return operations should continue to be pursued, in full coherence with the Partnership Framework approach, using all necessary leverages and incentives. It is relevant to effectively link different EU policies with return and readmission.

For instance, the mechanism set-up to link return and visa policy should be further used towards countries that do not cooperate in the area of return and readmission and should therefore continue to be explored."

See: Statewatch Analysis: The EU goes to war with African “elite” (pdf): EU to target African governments, officials and others with the threat to refuse or delay visas to enforce its returns and readmission policies. EU starts setting out the “consequences” of non-cooperation by agreeing “Measures targeting the "elite" of third countries

"There are also aspects that should be dealt with internally in order to increase the effectiveness of return policy. It is important to further address gaps between asylum and return policies, to achieve mutual beneficial effects and contribute to increasing the number of returns. In addition, the new capacities of the European Border and Coast Guard in the field of return must be urgently mobilised to its full potential, with also additional support from Member States."

3. Continuing the implementation of the EU-Turkey Statement

"The EU-Turkey Statement is holding in terms of low migrant arrivals and enables to ensure an effective management of migratory flows along the route. However, Turkey has demonstrated a lack of cooperation regarding the readmission of returnees not falling under the scope of the EU-Turkey Statement. As such, challenges remain: the continuing arrivals are still putting the Greek asylum system and the hotspots facilities on the islands under pressure and the returns to Turkey have not picked up."

But see: Challenge mounted to Court judgment on opposing access to the documents concerning the EU-Turkey deal of 18 March 2016 (Statewatch News)

4. Relocation and contributing experts to the Agencies

"The total number of people present and eligible for relocation in Greece and Italy has turned out to be well below what was foreseen in the Council Decisions from 2015. Nevertheless, there are still eligible applicants in both countries that still need to be relocated. Taking into account the progress registered so far, Member States are
invited to demonstrate political will and to take determined action to deliver on the relevant Council decisions and continue relocations under the financial possibilities provided by the Asylum and Migration Fund (AMIF)."

All the evidence is that Member States have failed to meet the target of 160,000 places and the EU's criteria that relocation will only be considered for people from Iraq, Syria and Eritrea has excluded tens of thousands especially those from Afghanistan and Africa.

5. The concept of "safe third country"

"As requested by the European Council on 22 and 23 June 2017 and in order to enhance cooperation with third countries and prevent new crisis, the Council, in the context of the CEAS reform, will work towards aligning the concept of "safe third country" with the effective requirements arising from the Geneva Convention and EU primary law, while
respecting the competences of the EU and the Member States under the Treaties."

Further reading

A Pyrrhic victory? The ECJ upholds the EU law on relocation of asylum-seekers (pdf)

Egypt: Europe’s other north African border (pdf)

More externalisation of migration control (pdf)

8th report on relocation and resettlement: Commission welcomes increase in relocations and ignores harmful systematic effects (pdf)

Opaque and unaccountable: Frontex Operation Hera (pdf)

Briefing: Frontex: cooperation with non-EU states (pdf)

9th report on relocation and resettlement (pdf)

More externalisation of migration control (pdf)

The EU’s military mission against Mediterranean migration: what “deterrent effect”? (pdf)



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