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Asylum policy

#Refugees: Rethinking the EU’s approach to refugee resettlement and relocation policy

Guest contributor



eu-border-2015-see-record-flow-migrantsRefugee resettlement to and within the European Union has so far embodied one of the weakest links in the EU’s refugee policy, writes Solon Ardittis.

To quote but two figures:

  • Under the existing EU voluntary scheme to resettle 22,000 refugees in the European Union over two years, agreed in 2015, less than 3,500 have so far been resettled in 10 member states.
  • As of 11 April 2016, only 1,145 asylum applicants, out of the 160,000 planned, had been relocated from Greece and Italy to other EU member states under the EU Relocation Plan agreed in 2015.

Based on their current design, EU resettlement and relocation policies are failing to gain traction in most member states, either because of their mandatory nature or because of their largely restrictive scope.

Indeed, one of the problems with such policies is that their decision-making process continues to rest with central government authorities alone, unlike the way resettlement is approached in some major non-EU countries; another problem is the strictly and univocally humanitarian nature of such policies.

If the EU Relocation Plan has failed to achieve its targets so far it is largely because its intra-EU distribution key was established solely on 'objective, quantifiable and verifiable criteria' (i.e. size of the population, GDP, unemployment rate and average number of spontaneous asylum applications and resettled refugees per 1 million inhabitants over the period 2010-2014). What the plan has largely overlooked is the need to also incorporate a range of other potentially enabling factors such as the willingness of local authorities, NGOs, other support groups, businesses and citizens to contribute to the financial and organisational aspects of relocation.

At a time of national budget cuts and deficits, and mounting hostility to the migrant crisis among specific segments of European society, it is therefore time for the EU to widen the scope of its resettlement and relocation policies in order to take account of the willingness of selected non-state actors to contribute substantively to the funding and implementation of such policies. In this regard, one potentially viable option that has been tested successfully elsewhere is the development of programmes of 'private sponsorship of refugees', enabling citizens, support groups and businesses to support many of the financial and non-financial costs of refugee resettlement. Canada’s experience in this area is enlightening.

Since 1979, Canada has been implementing a 'Private Sponsorship of Refugees (PSR)' programme that enables Canadian citizens and permanent residents to provide opportunities for refugees living abroad to find protection and build a new life in Canada. Based on a formal agreement with the Canadian authorities, private sponsors undertake to provide the refugees with care, lodging, settlement assistance and support for the duration of the sponsorship period. Normally, this is 12  months starting from the refugee's arrival in Canada or until the refugee becomes self-sufficient, whichever comes first.

Private sponsors normally agree to support such items as food, rent, household utilities and other day-to-day living expenses; clothing, furniture and other household goods; interpreters and medical doctors; assistance with the application for provincial health-care coverage; enrolling children in schools and adults in language training; introducing newcomers to people with similar personal interests; providing guidance with regard to banking services, transportation, etc.; and assisting refugees in their search for employment.

Since its launch in 1979, Canada’s Private Sponsorship of Refugees Programme has provided protection to some 250,000 refugees - around 7,000 per year. This is of course additional to the Government-assisted resettlement programme. Considering that Canada’s population accounts for 7% of the EU’s, the annual figure of 7,000 private sponsored refugees would amount potentially to some 114,000 in the case of the European Union.

Among other major non-EU host countries, Australia has been implementing a similar programme on a pilot basis between 2013 and 2016, and is now considering expanding it. In the United States, there is mounting pressure for the establishment of a similar scheme.

Within the European Union, only Germany is currently implementing such a scheme, albeit at Länder rather Federal level (i.e. 15 of the 16 Länder implement a private sponsorship scheme). The United Kingdom is in the process of finalising a similar policy, following an announcement made by the Home Secretary on 6 October 2015. Ireland and Switzerland had developed a similar scheme on a temporary basis, focusing specifically on the reunification of Syrian families.

The potential of such alternative and non-traditional approaches to refugee resettlement has not yet been explored and exploited fully within the EU.

As the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, stressed at the High-level meeting on 'Global responsibility sharing through pathway for admission of Syrian Refugees', held on 30 March 2016 in Geneva, private sponsorship not only adds more places for resettlement, but also "contributes to create this sense in civil society that it is a positive thing to do". Studies based on Canada’s experience suggest, in particular, that the long-term outcomes for privately sponsored refugees often exceed those for government-assisted ones, due in part to a stronger community support.

Privately sponsored refugee resettlement therefore appears to have the potential to compensate for many of the weaknesses in the EU’s current policies and measures in this area. However, for such a scheme to operate to its full potential, in particular by generating sufficient demand based on a range of criteria, its eligibility rules and modus operandi cannot draw solely on strictly humanitarian considerations. While it would of course be conceivable, and indeed desirable, that any future EU-based private sponsorship scheme establish a mandatory quota on vulnerable groups, there would be limited rationale for the scheme to also exclude more business-driven forms of resettlement, enabling employers to sponsor eligible refugees based on criteria such as education, skills and professional experience.

Refugees eligible for privately sponsored resettlement are usually referred by UNHCR anyway, and therefore their need for humanitarian protection has been ascertained prior to any privately sponsored resettlement agreement. Based on this premise, and considering the EU’s current economic and political climate, as well as the misfortunes of its resettlement and relocation measures to date, there would be limited ground for not extending the breadth of any future EU policies in this area to a more demand-driven eligibility and operating environment.

Solon Ardittis is director of Eurasylum, a European research and consulting organization specializing in migration and asylum policy on behalf of national public authorities and EU institutions. He is also co-editor of  Migration Policy Practice, a bimonthly journal published jointly with the International Organization for Migration  (IOM).

Asylum policy

Turkey’s policy in #Libya threatens EU

Graham Paul



The Turkish intervention into the Libyan conflict caused the negative effect for the region: the balance of power changed and the GNA liberated Tripoli from the LNA forces and recently started a big-scale offensive on Sirte city. On 6 June after negotiations with the Commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, and the speaker of the Libyan House of Representatives Aguila Saleh Issa  and Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the president of Egypt, issued the Cairo Declaration.

It is based on the agreements reached at the Berlin Conference on Libya in January. According to Cairo Declaration, "all parties undertake to cease fire from 6h local time on Monday, 8 June". In addition, it provides for the continuation of negotiations in Geneva under UN patronage of a joint military committee in the 5+5 format (five representatives from each side). Further progress on other issues, including political, economic and security, will depend on the success of its work.

EU Foreign Affairs Minister Josep Borrell, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Mayo welcomed the declaration and called for the cessation of all hostilities in Libya and the withdrawal of all foreign troops and military equipment from the country.

The French president noted that Turkey is playing "a dangerous game" in Libya. "I don't want in six months, or one year or two, to see that Libya is in the situation that Syria is in today," Macron added.

Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendyas announced on Wednesday 24 June in a statement following the visit of EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrel to Evros that Turkey "continues to undermine security and stability, as well as peace in the Eastern Mediterranean", causing problems for all its neighbours. "Turkey has continuously violated the sovereignty of Libya, Syria, Iraq and our EU partner, the Republic of Cyprus. In Libya, again in clear disregard for international legitimacy, it violates the UN embargo in pursuit of its neo-Osmanian aspirations. It openly ignores Europe's repeated calls for respect for international legitimacy," Dendyas said.

Turkey rejected the Cairo Declaration: The "Cairo Initiative" on the Libyan settlement is “not convincing” and insincere, declared Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu. After the Cairo Declaration Chairman of Presidential Council, Fayez Al-Sarraj urged the GNA troops to "continue their path" towards Sirte.

The recent success of the GNA troops is caused by the participation of Syrian mercenaries, connected with jihadists, who actively were sent in Libya by Turkey to fight against the LNA from may 2019. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), the number of fighters from the pro-Turkey Syrian factions today can reach more than 18 000. Generally, the mercenaries are from Al-Mu'tasim Brigade, the Sultan Murad Brigade, the Northern Falcons Brigade, Al-Hamzat and Suleiman Shah. The mercenaries are promised to be paid 1500-2000 $ a month, but the current monthly salary of each fighter is around 400$.

The policy of Turkey in the Libyan region represents destructive neo-Ottoman and pan-islamist strategy, which is based on the neocolonialist ambitions. The possible explanation for the intervention to Libya is the instability in Turkey itself and the Erdogan’s loss of popularity (the support of AKP party came from 33.9 in February 2020 to 30.7 in May 2020 according to Metropol). The Turkish president uses the Islamic narrative (in Libya as the war on side of the GNA, in Turkey – the initiative to convert Hagia Sophia back into Mosque) for the legitimation of his power. İbrahim Karagül , the columnist in the mainstream Yeni Şafak media of Turkish Republic wrote:“Turkey will never withdraw from Libya. It will not give up before achieving its aim.”

The major pro-Erdogan media spread this neocolonialist agenda about from November 2019 (when GNA signed 2 deals with Erdogan): Libya is seen as a part of the neo-ottoman empire.

Threat for the EU

The negative effect of the neo-ottoman agenda in Libya is the threat of the new migration crisis, which can happen to the EU. In march 2020 Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Tayyip Erdogan, declared, that Turkey will not close the borders for refugees until the EU fulfills its promises to Ankara. Recently Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has noted the surge of a new wave of refugees to Europe amidst the stabilization of the COVID-19 situation. If Turkey responds to this challenge, Europe will face a new migration crisis and its social services will feel the main blow from the new wave of refugees.

The other front of threat is the Libyan costs, the starting point for the trip of migrants to Europe. Nearly 2,000 Turkish-backed Syrian militants that were transported to Libya over the last five months have fled the north African nation for Europe according to Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).

European governments are taking steps to actively counter Turkish policy in Libya: France has already addressed NATO on this issue. French president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Donald Trump, and more exchanges on the issue are expected in the coming weeks.

In order to protect European interests, it is important to protect Libya from Turkish expansion and to prevent Erdogan from gaining control over the country's assets.

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Asylum policy

#EUAsylumRules - Reform of the #DublinSystem

EU Reporter Correspondent



The influx of migrants and asylum seekers to Europe in recent years has shown the need for a fairer, more effective European asylum policy. Check out the infographic for more information.
© European Union 2018 -EP   

Although the record migratory flows to the EU witnessed in 2015 and 2016 have subsided, Europe - due to its geographic position and stability - is likely to remain a destination for asylum seekers and migrants amid international and internal conflicts, climate change and poverty.

There is need for an overhaul of EU asylum rules, and of the Dublin system in particular, in order to increase the EU's preparedness for receiving migrants and asylum seekers and to ensure greater solidarity and a fairer sharing of responsibility among EU countries.

Young Rohingya refugees look out over Palong Khali refugee camp, a sprawling site located on a hilly area near the Myanmar border in south-east Bangladesh.© UNHCR/Andrew McConnellYoung Rohingya refugees look out over Palong Khali refugee camp, near the Myanmar border in south-east Bangladesh.© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

What are the Dublin rules?

The cornerstone of the EU asylum system, the Dublin regulation determines which EU country is responsible for processing applications for international protection. On 6 November 2017, the European Parliament confirmed a mandate for inter-institutional negotiations with EU governments on an overhaul of the Dublin rules. Parliament's suggestions for a new Dublin regulation include:

  • The country in which an asylum seeker first arrives would no longer be automatically responsible for processing the asylum application.
  • Asylum seekers with a 'genuine link' to a particular EU country should be transferred there.
  • Those without a genuine link to an EU country should be shared fairly among all member states. Countries refusing to participate in the transfer of asylum seekers could lose EU funds.
  • Security measures should be stepped up, and all asylum seekers must be registered upon arrival with their fingerprints checked against relevant EU databases.
  • Provisions on minors should be strengthened and family reunification procedures accelerated.

Although the Parliament has been ready since November 2017 to enter negotiations on an overhaul of the Dublin system, EU governments have been unable to reach a position on the proposals.

Learn more about Parliament's suggested amendments in the infographic above and in this background note.

13.6 million - The number of new people forced to flee their home in 2018

According to the UN Refugee Agency, 13.6 million people were forcibly displaced in 2018 due to persecution, conflict or violence. It brings the total worldwide population of forcibly displaced people to a new high of 70.8 million. 84% of the world's refugees are hosted by developing regions.

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Asylum policy

Future #Asylum reform: Designed to address both primary and secondary movements

EU Reporter Correspondent



The reform of EU asylum rules initiated by the Commission in 2015 are designed to ensure humane and dignified treatment of asylum seekers, simplified and shortened asylum procedures, as well as stricter rules to combat abuse. The key objectives of the reforms include both stopping secondary movements and ensuring solidarity for member states of first entry. With discussions ahead of the European Council focusing on how no member state should be left alone or put under disproportionate pressure be it from primary or secondary movements, the European Commission has today set out in factsheet how the future reform would contribute to both objectives. Read the factsheet here.

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