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09.04.2021 – European Economic and Social Committee - Opinion - European Pact on Migration and Asylum

Opinion of the European Economic and Social Committee on the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions on a new Pact on Migration and Asylum

Opinion EESC on the Communication from the Commission on a new Pact on Migration and Asylum (1.09 Mo)

1. Conclusions and recommendations

(COM(2020) 609 final)

(2021/C 123/04)
Rapporteur: José Antonio Moreno Díaz

Co-rapporteur: Cristian Pîrvulescu

European Commission, 11.11.2020
Article 304 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union Section for Employment, Social Affairs and Citizenship

1.1. The EU needs to strike the right balance between effective and realistic migration management that is humane and sustainable, while ensuring security and control of its external borders. In addition, the EU must send a clear message to Europeans that migration can be better managed collectively.

1.2. The EESC takes note of the presentation of the new PMA, which details the Commission’s five-year work plans on common immigration and asylum management. In this sense, it is more of a Commission work agenda than a pact. The proposals accompanying the PMA are important but insufficient for the development of the common European framework for migration management, which would be both effective and in line with the EU’s values and objectives. The EESC regrets that the new PMA devotes most of its proposals to the management of external borders and return, while failing to pay due attention to regular channels for immigration, safe pathways for asylum or the inclusion and integration of non-EU nationals in the EU.

1.3. The EESC regrets that the PMA makes no mention of the United Nations’ Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (2018) as a multilateral precursor to a proposal for international migration management. We support the strengthening of a rules-based global multilateral system (1), including in the area of mobility and migration, and encourage the Commission to coordinate the new Agenda with the global policies and instruments (2). Moreover, we encourage EU institutions and Member States to place migration and mobility within the larger Sustainable Development Goals UN Framework.

1.4. The PMA correctly highlights the inconsistencies between Member States’ asylum and return systems, and emphasises the need to boost solidarity. However, it is not clear if the principle of voluntary and selective solidarity will help solve major coordination challenges. No mention is made of the incentives for the Member States to participate in this mechanism, especially following the refusal by some of them to participate in the previous relocation programme. If they are incentivised to participate, it is not in the area of relocation — the most pressing, difficult and costly issue — but in the area of capacity-building and return.

1.5. The EESC considers that the projected pre-entry screening system and border procedures are inadequate. First, the screening system does not provide enough procedural guarantees for the respect of the fundamental rights by persons accessing it. As it stands now, it puts greater pressure on countries to take a swift decision and thus not show due regard for the individual rights enshrined in the 1951 Geneva Convention, especially non-refoulement. Second, as was the case with the hotspot approach, the conditions of reception for migrants and asylum-seekers alike are a serious concern which has to be fully addressed (3).

1.6. The EESC looks forward to receiving the EU’s strategy on voluntary return and reintegration, a document which hopefully will significantly advance strong reintegration measures, and thus move away from an approach centred primarily on policing. Return should involve various social, economic and political actors who can create a more comprehensive and humane environment.

1.7. The Committee welcomes rescue initiatives at sea that genuinely seek to save lives. For the EESC, search and rescue at sea is an international legal obligation to be fulfilled by Member States, with effective and adequate public mechanisms being provided for this purpose. Related to that, the EESC considers that sustained efforts are necessary to prevent the criminalisation of humanitarian actors who perform much-needed search and rescue operations.

1.8. The EESC welcomes the initiatives to improve shared responsibility and better governance of migration flows with non-EU countries. The Committee is, however, concerned about the use of cooperation mechanisms that could lead to the externalisation of EU migration management or turn migration management into a negative incentive for these countries, as well as the temptation to make development aid and cooperation conditional on the development of migration control and/or readmission policies.

1.9. The EESC welcomes the development of safe and legal pathways to access European territory, especially through resettlement and community-sponsored programmes. However, it considers that these channels only meet the needs of individuals with a specific profile and do not provide comprehensive, effective or secure responses to the need for regular channels of immigration into the EU. The EESC regrets that measures to improve legal entry routes are confined to attracting talent and to revising the Blue Card and study and research directives. A comprehensive approach to mobility is essential in order to offer alternatives that go beyond border control and return.

1.10. The EESC would like to draw attention to the working and living conditions of numerous third-country nationals, especially those in agriculture. Member States and their specialised bodies must confront the cases of abuse and exploitation and civil society organisations and trade unions must be encouraged to engage with third-country nationals, irrespective of their level of employment and pay.

1.11. The EESC is concerned that the fight against networks could have the effect of breaching the rights of trafficking and smuggling victims, and is concerned in particular at the involvement of non-EU countries where the fundamental rights of such individuals, or decent living conditions, are not respected. We have for example seen how the fight against human trafficking is used to try to criminalise humanitarian action.

1.12. The EESC believes that the fight against people-smuggling and trafficking networks must continue, and fully recognises the need to make the directive on sanctions for those who employ people illegally more effective.

1.13. The EESC looks forward to the development of the Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion for 2021-2027 (4) presented recently. The EESC is disappointed that this issue, which is crucial to coexistence in our societies, warrants so little attention in the PMA. There is no indication in the Communication of the scale and structure of support for the integration measures. The EESC has extensive experience with the issues related to integration and unfortunately the new PMA in its current form lacks ambition and clarity regarding the tools and incentives offered to different stakeholders.

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