Many Europeans would consider ‘immigration’ to be one of their biggest concerns. The referendum debate in the UK, for example, has been dominated by discussion of Polish plumbers, Syrian refugees, and Turkish EU membership. The fine details often get lost in the scrum of public opinion; Asylum seekers, refugees, economic migrants, EU migrants, and even ethnic minorities and second- or third-generation migrants all get swirled together into a great lump of “foreigners”.
There’s currently no real single EU immigration and asylum policy, but rather a mixed approach. For example, EU Member States have the right to determine admission rates for people coming from third countries to seek work (though an EU legal migration policy is currently under discussion). Likewise, although the EU has been building a Common European Asylum System since 1999, implementation is often patchy at best, particularly in the face of the current refugee and migrant crisis.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently called for a complete overhaul of EU migration rules. Given that immigration is a common European concern, should more effort be made to coordinate national policies, and to strengthen a common European response? If we all worked together, could migration and asylum flows be managed sustainably? Or is that just a high-minded liberal pipedream?
Curious to know more about migration policy in Europe? We’ve put together some facts and figures in the infographic below (click for a bigger version).
We had a comment from Christos arguing that there should be a “common EU immigration policy, [which is] something that our leaders are failing to do and agree on”.
To get a rection, we put Christos’ comment to Kristof Tamas, Director, Head of Secretariat of Delmi, the Swedish-based Migration Studies Delegation. Is it accurate to talk about an “EU immigration policy”, or are there rather several national policies (often working at loggerheads)?
I would say both exist in parallel. There is an EU policy from what is called the ‘EU acquis’, with Directives and Regulations at the EU level that EU Member States are bound to implement. But, at the same time, especially regarding labour immigration and regulations concerning the rules for family reunification, EU Member States still have their own legal frameworks in place. Also when it comes to integration, which is more an EU Member State competency. So, I would say both. They both exist in parallel.
To get another reaction, we also spoke to Benjamin Ward, Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch’s Europe and Central Asia Division. When it came to asylum policy, he argued that the theory was very different than the reality:
Well, there is supposed to be a Common European Asylum System, and inherent in that is the notion of common standards of protection and processing across the EU-28. The reality is, as Christos suggests, rather different. And, certainly in the context of the last year or so, we have seen what we have described as a kind of ‘beggar thy neighbour’ approach, where individual Member States have sought, by building fences and putting into place abusive policies, to redirect flows of asylum seekers and migrants away from their territory and towards the territory of other Member States. That approach is not going to work in the long term, and what we actually need is a system of shared responsibility across the EU-28. And, in fact, if that happened – if it wasn’t the case that only a few countries bore the majority of the arrivals – then the numbers would be manageable. But, obviously, if you have a situation where Germany, Greece, Sweden, and a handful of others are taking everyone who arrives in the EU, then it’s not sustainable.
Does Europe need a common immigration policy? Do separate national policies lead to ‘beggar thy neighbour’ situations? Would greater coordination between EU Member States help everyone better manage migrant flows? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!
IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Joe Brusky
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