European Agenda on Migration: European Commission adopting first proposals

Two weeks after presenting the European Agenda on Migration, the Commission is today adopting the first proposals of its comprehensive approach to improving the management of migration

Following the terrible loss of life in the Mediterranean last month, European leaders had made a firm commitment to solidarity amongst member states to address the common migratory challenges. Trhough today's proposals, the Commission is turning words into action and setting out immediate and long-term responses to the migration challenges that Europe faces.

"Today the Commission is matching words with action. Solidarity goes hand in hand with responsibility. This is why our proposals include the strong requirement that asylum rules are properly applied, and that Member States do everything they should to prevent abuse,” First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said.

Timmermans added that everyone who needs sanctuary should find it in Europe.

“But those who have no justified claim should be quickly identified and returned to their home country. This is essential for migration policies to be well accepted in society,” he added.

"Two weeks after adopting our Agenda, we present today concrete proposals for its implementation, with one main aim: quickly save lives and provide protection in the EU for people in need, be they at sea, in the EU or in third countries. For this reason, we are intensifying our cooperation with countries of origin and transit and with countries hosting refugees, not only to support asylum and migration capacities, but also to tackle the root causes that force people to escape and migrate: poverty, wars, persecutions, violations of human rights and natural disasters’” High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said.

Mogherini added that the objectives had been discussed with Ministers of Development, in the context of a reflection on new sustainable Development Goals, and

“I have exchanged views once more with the UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon on the comprehensive steps we want to take," she added.

"Today, the Commission has shown that it can act quickly and resolutely to better manage migration. The relocation and resettlement schemes, together with the strengthening of Triton and Poseidon and the Action Plan to fight smugglers, respond to the most urgent challenges we are confronted with. At the same time, we are launching the public consultation on the revision of the Blue Card Directive, a consultation that we hope will bring us valuable input for turning this instrument into a true business card for the Union in the global competition for talents and skills,” Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

In a statement, the European Commission said that it is presenting several different and concrete measures to respond to the current migration challenges today. The measures include relocation: emergency response mechanism to assist Italy and Greece, where the commission is proposing to use the emergency response mechanism for the first time, to set up an emergency relocation scheme to assist Italy and Greece. This scheme will apply to Syrian and Eritrean nationals in need of international protection that arrived in either Italy or Greece after 15 April 2015 or that arrive after the mechanism is launched. A total of 40,000 persons should be relocated from Italy and Greece to other EU member states based on a distribution key over the next 2 years – corresponding to approximately 40% of the total number of asylum seekers in clear need of international protection who entered these countries in 2014. The Commission is ready to do the same if other Member States – such as Malta – also face a sudden influx of migrants. Member States will receive €6,000 for each person relocated on their territory. Another measure is resettlement where the Commission has adopted a Recommendation asking Member States to resettle 20 000 people from outside the EU, in clear need of international protection as identified by the UNHCR, over 2 years, based on a distribution key. Member states who participate in the scheme will be entitled to financial support, with the EU making €50 million available in 2015-16.

The Plan for 2015-2020 also sets out concrete actions to prevent and counter migrant smuggling. Actions include setting up a list of suspicious vessels; dedicated platforms to enhancing cooperation and exchange of information with financial institutions; and cooperating with internet service providers and social media to ensure internet content used by smugglers to advertise their activities is swiftly detected and removed.

For the EU's common asylum system to work effectively, migrants need to be systematically fingerprinted upon arrival. The Commission services have published guidelines for member states setting out a best practices approach for fingerprinting newly arrived applicants for international protection. "Hotspot" teams from EASO, Frontex and Europol will work on the ground to swiftly identify, register and fingerprint incoming migrants and assess those who are in need of protection,” the statement reads.

Further measures include a public consultation on the future of the Blue Card Directive whereby the Commission wants to improve the existing EU Blue Card scheme, which aims to make it easier for highly skilled people to come and work in the EU, but is currently scarcely used. The public consultation invites stakeholders (migrants, employers, governmental organisations, trade unions, NGOs, employment agencies, etc.) to share their views on the EU Blue Card and how it can be improved. Furthermore the Commission also takes note of a new Operational Plan for Operation Triton. The new Operational Plan for the reinforced Joint Operation Triton sets out the new number of assets: 10 maritime, 33 land and 8 air assets, and 121 human resources. The Operational Plan also extends the geographical area of Triton southwards to the borders of the Maltese search and rescue zone to cover the area of the former Italian Mare Nostrum operation.

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