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UN expert calls on Europe to bank on migrants’ mobility to regain control of its borders

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QATAR-LABOUR-RIGHTS-ASIA-FBL-WC2022-UN“The European Union must bank on mobility in order to regain control over its borders,” the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants, François Crépeau (pictured), said today (5 February). 

“The status quo isn’t sustainable,” Crépeau warned at the end of an official visit to Brussels, the third and final component of his follow-up study on the management of the EU external borders launched in 2012. “By continuing to invest financial and human resources mostly on securing its borders, Europe will certainly continue to lose control of its borders.”

“Banking on mobility means that the overall goal is to have migrants using official channels to enter and stay in Europe,” he said. “For that, EU Member States must accept that migrants will continue to come, no matter what, and offer them incentives to use regular channels, because these will respond to their needs, as well as to the economic and social needs of Europe.”

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Migrants and asylum seekers move due to the push factors in their countries of origin, which may include war, conflict, natural disasters, persecution or extreme poverty, as well as in response to pull factors such as the unrecognized needs in the labour markets of EU Member States. “These push and pull factors are unlikely to change in the foreseeable future,” the expert said.

It is currently estimated that in 2014 more than 150,000 migrants and asylum seekers arrived in Europe by sea, compared with 80,000 in 2013.

The Special Rapporteur noted that Syrians, for example, cannot be expected by the EU to live in Lebanon and Turkey indefinitely, with some having no viable prospects for a better life for themselves or their families while the EU stalls in making a commitment to a meaningful refugee resettlement programme. “If nothing else is available to them, they will take their chances with smugglers in order to provide a future for themselves and their children, as many of us would do in similar circumstances,” he said.

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“Any attempt at sealing borders – as the nationalist populist discourse stridently calls for – will continue to fail on a massive scale,” Crépeau underscored. “Sealing international borders is impossible. Migrants will continue arriving despite all efforts to stop them, at a terrible cost in lives and suffering if nothing else is put in place. Italy recognized this and as a result has launched the Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation for which it must be commended.”

“Europe is grappling with how best to respond to irregular migration movements and to satisfy its immigration needs despite a toxic political environment. There are signs that it is slowly moving in the right direction,” he said, noting several initiatives by the EU and individual governments. The initiatives include the “Blue Card” system, the Seasonal Workers Directive; the draft student and researchers policy; the proposal for a holistic approach to migration from the European Parliament; the prioritisation of migration in the strategic framework and work plan for human rights and democracy promoted by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission, Ms. Federica Mogherini; and the Frontex Triton search and rescue operation which has already rescued 17.000 migrants.

“All these initiatives must translate into effective programmes that work for both Member States and for migrants and asylum seekers – whose human rights must be fully protected at all times,” he stressed.

To avoid asylum seekers having to take to dangerous land and sea routes, European States, in partnership with other Global North States, should implement an important refugee resettlement programme, over a number of years, with a distribution key for attributing responsibilities. The EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Avramopoulos has already called for a similar proposal and initiatives such as those of Sweden, Germany and Austria are leading the way.

The expert also called on Europe not “to turn a blind eye to the pull factors for irregular migration,” such as the unrecognized needs for migrant workers in European underground labour markets. “EU Member States should recognize their real labour needs, including for low-wage work,” he noted.

“This means that they should, on the one hand, open up many more regular migration channels, at all skills levels. On the other hand, they need to repress unscrupulous employers who exploit the fear of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants to be detected, detained and deported,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“Combining such policies would lead to smaller underground labour markets, less irregular border crossings, less labour exploitation, and less migrants’ rights violations,” the expert stated.

“I urge the EU and EU Member States to progressively establish a human-rights-based, coherent and comprehensive migration policy which addresses these issues and makes mobility its central asset. A common narrative celebrating mobility and diversity, recognising real labour market needs as well as the needs of migrants, based on human rights guarantees and access to justice, must be developed,” Crépeau said.

During his four-day visit to Brussels, from 2 to 5 February 2015, the independent expert has met with a range of EU officials responsible for border management, international organisations and civil society organisations, to discuss the complex management of the EU border, focusing particularly on the issue of migrants and asylum seekers arriving by boat.

The Special Rapporteur will present a thematic report on EU border management to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2015.

European Commission

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €231 million in pre-financing to Slovenia

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The European Commission has disbursed €231 million to Slovenia in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's grant allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Slovenia's recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €2.5 billion in total, consisting of €1.8bn in grants and €705m in loans, over the lifetime of its plan. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80 billion in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU.

The RRF is at the heart of NextGenerationEU which will provide €800bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states. The Slovenian plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Cyprus

NextGenerationEU: European Commission disburses €157 million in pre-financing to Cyprus

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The European Commission has disbursed €157 million to Cyprus in pre-financing, equivalent to 13% of the country's financial allocation under the Recovery and Resilience Facility (RRF). The pre-financing payment will help to kick-start the implementation of the crucial investment and reform measures outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan. The Commission will authorise further disbursements based on the implementation of the investments and reforms outlined in Cyprus' recovery and resilience plan.

The country is set to receive €1.2 billion in total over the lifetime of its plan, with €1 billion provided in grants and €200m in loans. Today's disbursement follows the recent successful implementation of the first borrowing operations under NextGenerationEU. By the end of the year, the Commission intends to raise up to a total of €80bn in long-term funding, to be complemented by short-term EU-Bills, to fund the first planned disbursements to member states under NextGenerationEU. Part of NextGenerationEU, the RRF will provide €723.8bn (in current prices) to support investments and reforms across member states.

The Cypriot plan is part of the unprecedented EU response to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, fostering the green and digital transitions and strengthening resilience and cohesion in our societies. A press release is available online.

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Belgium

EU Cohesion policy: Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy receive €373 million to support health and social services, SMEs and social inclusion

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The Commission has granted €373 million to five European Social Fund (ESF) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) operational programmes (OPs) in Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy to help the countries with coronavirus emergency response and repair in the framework of REACT-EU. In Belgium, the modification of the Wallonia OP will make available an additional €64.8m for the acquisition of medical equipment for health services and innovation.

The funds will support small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in developing e-commerce, cybersecurity, websites and online stores, as well as the regional green economy through energy efficiency, protection of the environment, development of smart cities and low-carbon public infrastructures. In Germany, in the Federal State of Hessen, €55.4m will support health-related research infrastructure, diagnostic capacity and innovation in universities and other research institutions as well as research, development and innovation investments in the fields of climate and sustainable development. This amendment will also provide support to SMEs and funds for start-ups through an investment fund.

In Sachsen-Anhalt, €75.7m will facilitate cooperation of SMEs and institutions in research, development and innovation, and provide investments and working capital for micro-enterprises affected by the coronavirus crisis. Moreover, the funds will allow investments in the energy efficiency of enterprises, support digital innovation in SMEs and acquiring digital equipment for schools and cultural institutions. In Italy, the national OP ‘Social Inclusion' will receive €90m to promote the social integration of people experiencing severe material deprivation, homelessness or extreme marginalisation, through ‘Housing First' services that combine the provision of immediate housing with enabling social and employment services.

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In Spain, €87m will be added to the ESF OP for Castilla y León to support the self-employed and workers who had their contracts suspended or reduced due to the crisis. The money will also help hard-hit companies avoid layoffs, especially in the tourism sector. Finally, the funds are needed to allow essential social services to continue in a safe way and to ensure educational continuity throughout the pandemic by hiring additional staff.

REACT-EU is part of NextGenerationEU and provides €50.6bn additional funding (in current prices) to Cohesion policy programmes over the course of 2021 and 2022. Measures focus on supporting labour market resilience, jobs, SMEs and low-income families, as well as setting future-proof foundations for the green and digital transitions and a sustainable socio-economic recovery.

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