European countries need to show solidarity towards Italy after the arrival by boat of hundreds of migrants on the country's southern island of Lampedusa at the weekend, the EU's home affairs commissioner said on Monday (10 May).
"When we see...a huge amount of people coming in a very short time there is a need for solidarity towards Italy, and I call on other member states to support with relocation," Ylva Johansson told a news conference.
"I know it's more difficult in the pandemic time but I think it's possible to manage and now it's time ... to show solidarity towards Italy and to help in the situation," she said alongside Filippo Grandi, Commissioner of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
EPP - 'Lift political deadlock on Migration Pact'
The EPP Group is concerned about the lack of agreement among EU member states on the Migration Pact, the reform package of new EU migration laws. The dramatically increasing number of migrant arrivals in Lampedusa in recent days highlights the alarming risk of a new migration crisis in the upcoming summer period. The EPP Group calls on EU member state leaders to take their responsibility and agree on a negotiating mandate as soon as possible.
"Our citizens expect us to deliver on a sustainable and operational asylum and migration management which controls our borders, ensures fair and swift asylum procedures and the efficient return of those not granted stay. This requires us to reform the current policies. The current regulations have proven insufficient, especially in times of crisis," said Tomas Tobé MEP, who is responsible for the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation, ahead of today's plenary debate on the urgent migration situation at the EU’s external borders.
"My ambition is to move towards compromises and much-needed reform of a system where human traffickers decide who can apply for asylum in Europe, coldheartedly putting vulnerable people's lives at risk while doing so. Therefore, I am disappointed in there being no real movement among member states towards a compromise. The situation is acute and the political deadlock must be lifted, by a qualified majority if necessary," said Tobé.
The EPP Group wants a European approach to ensure strong borders, fair and swift asylum procedures, an efficient and safe return of those not eligible for protection, and a sustainable system to better handle upcoming crises.
EU Blue Card: Commission welcomes political agreement on new rules for highly skilled migrant workers
The Commission welcomes the agreement reached by the European Parliament and the Council on new rules for the entry and residence of highly skilled workers from outside the EU under the revised Blue Card Directive. The new scheme will introduce efficient rules for attracting highly skilled workers to the EU, including more flexible admission conditions, enhanced rights and the possibility to move and work more easily between EU Member States. Agreement on the revised Blue Card is a key objective of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President for Margaritis Schinas said: “Today's agreement gives the EU a modern, targeted legal migration scheme that will allow us to respond to skills shortages and make it easier for highly skilled professionals to join our workforce. The EU Blue Card will help sustain economic growth, respond to labour market needs and increase productivity to allow the EU to emerge stronger from this pandemic. This agreement on a key migration file also shows that, by working together, the EU can equip itself with a future-proof migration system.”
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said: “Migrant workers already make an important contribution to the EU's economy. But our shrinking, aging society means we must continue to attract skills and talent from abroad. Today's agreement is a key element of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum that will allow us to normalise our migration policy. New rules will make it easier to work and move within the EU and will recognise the potential of highly skilled workers from diverse backgrounds, including beneficiaries of international protection.”
Attracting new skills and talent
The EU is increasingly competing with other destinations in the global race for talent. While member states are responsible for deciding on the number of persons they admit for labour purposes, an improved framework at EU level will put member states and businesses in the best possible position to attract the talent they need. The new scheme will introduce the following changes:
- Flexible requirements: To qualify for an EU Blue Card, the salary threshold will be reduced to between one and 1.6 times the average gross annual salary, making it more accessible to more people. The minimum duration for a contract of employment will also be reduced to six months.
- Qualifications and skills equivalency: New rules will facilitate the recognition of professional skills for occupations in the information and communication technologies sector. Applicants with professional experience equivalent to a higher education qualification in some specific sectors will also be eligible to apply.
- More flexibility to change position or employer: During the first 12 months, EU Blue Card holders need only complete a new labour market test if they wish to change position or employer. Only after this period, EU Blue Card holders may be subject to an obligation to notify a change in their situation to the relevant national authorities.
- Highly skilled beneficiaries of international protection will be eligible to apply for an EU Blue Card.
- Family reunification: To attract and retain highly skilled workers from outside the EU, family members of EU Blue Card holders will be able to accompany them and access the EU labour market.
- Intra-EU mobility: EU Blue Card holders, and their family members, will be able to move to a second Member State based on simplified mobility rules after 12 months of employment in the first Member State. Periods of time spent working in different Member States will also be taken into account, facilitating easier access to the EU long-term resident status.
The European Parliament and the Council will still need to confirm formally the political agreement by adopting the EU Blue Card Directive. Once the Directive is formally adopted, member states will have two years to transpose the rules into national law.
Damian Boeselager, Volt MEP, in the Civil Liberties committee welcomed the agreement: “The agreement reached last night is a step towards a fairer and more resilient EU-wide immigration system. The Blue Card Directive will improve the lives of those seeking work in the EU and thanks to our efforts, will ensure that refugees and seasonal workers now have full and immediate access to the visa scheme. A big improvement is that now Blue Card holders and their families can accumulate years for long-term residence, even if moving to other EU countries or changing from national schemes to EU schemes.
“There are still several areas to improve, as national schemes will continue to exist in parallel. Unfortunately, asylum seekers will still not be able to apply and this must be addressed to create a fairer system in the future that taps on the existing potential within the EU."
In 2016, the European Commission proposed to reform the Blue Card Directive, after identifying a number of weaknesses in the initial scheme, adopted in 2009, including restrictive admission conditions and the existence of parallel rules that created additional burdens for employers and applicants.
The reformed rules are an important part of the EU's overall migration policy, that aims to attract skills and talent and providing legal pathways to the EU, as highlighted in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The Commission will soon launch Talent Partnerships with non-EU partner countries to help match labour and skill needs in the EU and link skilled workers, employers, social partners, labour market institutions, and education and training through dedicated outreach and by building a network of involved enterprises, as well as financially support mobility schemes for work or training. Later in the year, the Commission will also propose a skills and talent package.
Migration management: New EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration
The Commission is adopting the first EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration. The Strategy promotes voluntary return and reintegration as an integral part of a common EU system for returns, a key objective under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. It sets out practical measures to strengthen the legal and operational framework for voluntary returns from Europe and from transit countries, improve the quality of return and reintegration programmes, establish better links with development initiatives and strengthen cooperation with partner countries
Promoting our European Way of Life Vice President Margaritis Schinas said: “The EU is building a new ecosystem on returns – looking at increasing cooperation on readmission, improving the governance framework, equipping Frontex with a new operational mandate on returns and appointing an EU Return Coordinator. Today's Strategy on voluntary returns and reintegration is another piece of that puzzle. Returns are more effective when they are voluntary and accompanied by genuine reintegration options for returnees and this Strategy will develop a more uniform and coordinated approach among Member States to unlock their full potential.”
Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said: “Only about a third of people with no right to stay in the EU return to their country of origin and of those who do, fewer than 30% do so voluntarily. Voluntary returns are always the better option: they put the individual at the core, they are more effective and less costly Our first ever strategy on voluntary return and reintegration will help returnees from both the EU and third countries to seize opportunities in their home country, contribute to the development of the community and build trust in our migration system to make it more effective.”
An effective legal and operational framework
Gaps between asylum and return procedures, challenges in preventing absconding, insufficient resources, lack of data, overall fragmentation and limited administrative capacity to follow-up on return decisions all contribute to the low uptake in assisted voluntary returns programmes. Through the proposed recast Return Directive, the amended proposal for an Asylum Procedures Regulation, the Asylum and Migration Management Regulation and the revised Eurodac Regulation, the Commission will continue to put in place fast and fair common procedures and rules on asylum and return, monitor the granting of return and reintegration assistance and reduce the risk of unauthorised movements. Through its enhanced mandate, Frontex can support Member States in all stages of the voluntary return and reintegration process, including on pre-return counselling, post-arrival support and monitoring the effectiveness of reintegration assistance. The Return Coordinator and High Level Network for Return will provide further technical support to Member States in bringing together different strands of EU return policy.
Improved quality of assisted voluntary return programmes
Providing early, tailor-made and effective return counselling taking into account individual circumstances, the needs of children and vulnerable groups, as well as support after return, improves their chances of successful and sustainable reintegration into their home communities. The Commission will work with Frontex to develop a common curriculum for return counsellors complementing existing support from the Agency and making better use of web-based tools such as the Return and Reintegration Assistance Inventory and the Reintegration Assistance Tool. The Commission, in cooperation with Member States, Frontex and the European Return and Reintegration Network, will also develop a quality framework for reintegration service providers based on common standards for managing projects, supported by EU funding.
Strengthening cooperation with partner countries
Cooperation on voluntary return and reintegration is a key aspect of migration partnerships that the EU will strengthen under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The EU will support the ownership of reintegration processes in partner countries with capacity building, providing staff with the necessary skills, or supporting governance structures to cater to the specific economic, social and psychosocial needs of returnees. The EU will also continue to provide assistance for voluntary return and reintegration of migrants stranded in other countries, including through exploring new partnerships. Finally, the EU will strengthen links between reintegration programmes and other relevant development initiatives in partner countries. The Commission will ensure a more coordinated use of the financial resources that will be available under different EU funds to support the entirety of the voluntary return and reintegration process.
Today's Strategy is part of the EU's work to build a common EU system for return under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum.
The Strategy is based on the results and experience gained in implementing national programmes and EU-funded initiatives in partner countries, including the work done by the European Return and Reintegration Network, Frontex and the EU–International Organization for Migration Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration.
Communication: The EU Strategy on voluntary returns and reintegration
Commission Staff Working Document: The EU framework on return counselling and the Reintegration Assistance Tool
Q&A: The EU Strategy on voluntary returns and reintegration
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