The EU Agenda on Migration. Losing pieces of the European puzzle

Signed for the first time in 1990, the Dublin Convention regulates the assessment of applications for asylum seekers in Europe. Revised and corrected in 2003 and then in 2013, the version currently in force provides that the request of asylum is examined in the country of arrival: after considering this, the majority of immigrants, who travel by sea in the Mediterranean, land on the Italian coast. The Dublin III Regulation, the latest version dated 2014, seems not to work in the very best way and in the last few months has put Europe in another crisis, but not an economic one.

Is that only a geographical problem? According to the large increase of arrivals in the last months, the answer is “no”. To begin with, let us clarify what the law states, in order to understand the urgent situation the Mediterranean area is facing and the urgent need of a solution.

The principle of the Dublin III Regulation dates back to the first Convention’s edition and is also included in the Schengen Agreement. It states that the asylum request should be made in the first country where the migrant sets the foot. Working like this, at least one of the Member States would have taken the load required to obtain the status of political refugee. In the treaty, the case of “illegal entry” into the European Union is considered as an exception but, unfortunately, it has become the rule and is the primary cause of many diplomatic problems on migrants among the European countries. There is something else. Over the years, the rigidity of the treaty has produced a paradoxical situation: on the one hand, there is an asylum seeker who does not want to stay in the first country he arrived. On the other hand, the country that hosts not always can meet the needs and the necessities of the asylum seeker. States like Italy know that, once they saved a migrant in their own waters, they have to take responsibility of its protection: this is an additional burden, especially for countries facing the sea.

In 2014, Italy received 21,000 requests for asylum. Among European countries, the number of asylum applications has increased in 2014, rising from 435,190 in 2013 to 626,065 in 2014 [source: Eurostat]. In the same year, asylum was granted to 163,000 people in the European Union. In 2014, Germany was the country that granted asylum several times with 41 thousand requests approved, followed by Sweden with 31 thousand requests approved.

Today, after the huge wave of migrants and their tragic deaths in the Mediterranean Sea, the European Union has decided to implement a new plan. The core point of this new policy is the “mandatory migrant quota system” proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission. In order to share responsibility balanced among member states, every nations should be willing to welcome a defined number of refugees, according with its capability calculated on: GDP, population size, unemployment rate and past admissions. This new perspective could allow Italy and other countries in difficulties to release themselves from the charge of being always the “first country of arrival”. Despite the urgency of the situation, given this new European plan, there were not lacking objections from the most conservative countries which are not accepting a mandatory system of resettlement. After the Ventimiglia accident, France has declared its disagreement to the mandatory quotas system, Hungary has decided to suspend the Dublin Convention, due to the high number of refugees arrived the last few days. Italy and Greece are surely supporting the quota system but what if the European Union will find itself intrinsically divided?

It is happening because migration is an issue with a powerful domestic impact. The 28 countries do not seem unite and willing to fight this plague which seems endless and, what is worse, dangerous.

Despite all this problems, in the night of June 27th, when the summit of EU leaders was set, the European Union agreed to redistribute 40,000 migrants across member states in the next two years. Many countries will not take part in this process such as the Eastern Block, like Hungary. The Hungarian Parliament, in these last days has approved the proposal to build a wall (175 kilometers) against migrants, made of barbed wire, between Serbia and Hungary and to reject them with a fast, special procedure. The law has passed thanks to huge support of the nationalist party guided by Jobbik, who has given the Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán a strong endorsement on this question. Therefore, Budapest is not likely to stand for migrants’ rights or mandatory quotas, since it has already chosen the policy it will be implementing, given that it is not bonded with the Convention anymore.

It is also true that the European Union has declared that this compromise would be reached on voluntary basis, so, some countries will take advantage of this statement and step back. Regardless of that, the discussion on migrations is a big step towards an in-depth understanding of the problem and a coming up with some reasonable solutions, with plural actors. We will explore different ways to approach this issue, in the place of the mandatory quota system (which is not truly mandatory, in a narrow sense).

First, the European Commission should re-think about a new burden-sharing mechanism that could allow Italy or Greece not to be devastated from waves of migrants. Secondly, the whole Europe should be aware of its “hysteria” about a supposed invasion of migrants, an unexpected reaction that could lead to wrong short-term solutions like bombing the boats of traffickers and trying to stop with violence this flow of criminality. Among the possible solutions on the table, there are also proposals, which could involve African countries such as Eritrea and Libya, lending money to their politically corrupted regimes to contain migration. This solution is complex and not sustainable, as those regimes are the main cause of the migrants escape. Furthermore, money in corrupted hands would only strengthen such dictatorship that violate the human rights. In addition, an element often overlooked of the European Commission’s Agenda on Migration could actually bring very good results: building up investigative capacities in the origin and transit countries, such as in Central Africa, in order to better tackle criminal networks and be able to prevent the trafficking. All these ideas are present in the European Commission’s Agenda on Migration which takes this issue as a priority but there is no doubt that Europe will need to implement more strategies (internal and external) in order to gain a successful long-term result since right now. There is no aligned policy among European countries and this could lead to different responses that show a huge lack of solidarity within Europe.


Master’s degree in International Relations (LUISS Guido Carli)

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