2015 Valletta summit on migration - background on EU action

International Summit
  • 11/11/2015
  • 747/15
  • Justice
  • Home Affairs
  • Foreign affairs & international relations

The number of migrants arriving to the European Union is unprecedented, and this increased flow is likely to continue. The EU, together with the member states, is taking a wide range of measures to address the challenges, and to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy. Managing migratory flows is a shared responsibility and also has a significant impact on the countries of origin and transit. 

EU-Africa cooperation

Since 2005, the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) provides the framework for the EU's relations with third countries in the areas of migration and asylum. Updated in May 2012, it serves as a complement to the EU's foreign and development cooperation policies. On the basis of the GAMM, there are several cooperation processes between the EU and African countries at different levels:

  • continental
  • regional (Rabat process, Khartoum process)
  • bilateral (through mobility partnerships and other tools)

The Valletta Summit on Migration is part of this effort, bringing the EU and African countries together to work in a spirit of partnership and find common solutions to mutual challenges. It aims to build on existing activities and frameworks for cooperation, focusing on five specific areas.

Addressing the root causes of migration

Migrants leave their countries for a number of reasons, including conflict, political and economic instability, human rights violations and poverty. In order to reduce the migratory flows, the EU works to help create peace, stability and economic development.

The EU engages in diplomatic activity and seeks to mobilise regional and international efforts to promote negotiated solutions to existing conflicts. It also supports other partners, such as the United Nations, in their mediation efforts. In parallel, through its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions, the EU also takes a leading role in peace keeping, conflict prevention and strengthening international security.

Key figures - aid

EU external cooperation budget for 2014-2020:

  • €96.8 billion
  • €344 million dedicated to migration

EU support to help Africa achieve the Millennium Development Goals (2000-2015):

  • 9.4 million people enrolled in primary education
  • 5.4 million births attended by skilled health personnel
  • 41 million people connected to improved drinking water

EU development cooperation and humanitarian aid play an important role in addressing the global challenges and drivers of migration. By helping people where they are, alleviating suffering and improving their living conditions, they reduce the incentives for taking dangerous journeys through land and sea. The EU finances projects in may of the countries of origin and transit of migrants.

On 26 May 2015, the Council reiterated the need to enhance work on the links between migration and development, and invited the European Commission and the EEAS to work on concrete measures.

In October, EU Ministers agreed to strengthen development cooperation with third countries to  address the common challenges currently facing Europe and its partner countries.

The European Commission is currently working on  preparing development actions to implement the part of the European agenda on migration focused on addressing the external dimension of the crisis. Part of this process is the setting up of an EU emergency trust fund for stability and addressing the root causes of irregular migration and displaced persons in Africa. This trust fund will allow to finance projects aiming at creating employment opportunities and supporting basic services for local populations.

Establishing and organising legal migration channels

Practical tools

The EU immigration portal, launched in November 2011, provides information for foreign nationals interested in moving to the EU.

The EU aims to improve the management of legal migration flows, to maximise its positive impact both in the development of African partner countries and in the EU member states.

There are several ongoing initiatives in the area of labour migration, in particular:

  • a review by the Commission of the blue card directive, which targets high skilled worker
  • new legislation regulating the conditions for seasonal workers and intra-corporate transfers

Discussions are also ongoing regarding a new regulation for the entry of third-country nationals for research and studies.

Enhancing the protection of migrants and asylum seekers

Key facts

2015 budget:

  • €38 million for Triton
  • €18 million for Poseidon sea

In 2016, the Commission will provide Frontex with an additional €45 million for the two operations.

The EU has stepped up its effort to save lives and prevent casualties at sea. To this end, it has two ongoing maritime operations, coordinated by Frontex:

  • Operation Triton: active in the central Mediterranean since 2014
  • Operation Poseidon: active in the eastern Mediterranean since 2006

The EU has tripled the capacities and assets for these operations for 2015 and 2016. In addition, operation Triton's geographical area has been expanded to the south, up to the Maltese search and rescue limits.

To prevent further casualties, support also needs to be provided to the countries of first asylum and other countries in the region. This cooperation takes place through EU Regional Development and Protection Programmes. These programmes are designed to improve the capacities of non-EU countries in the areas where many refugees originate or through which they pass.

Regional Development and Protection Programmes have been launched in North Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

Key figures - asylum

In 2014:

  • 662 680 applied for international protection
  • 387 805 decisions were issued
  • 47% of decisions were positive

The European Union is also ready to fulfil its international obligations regarding the reception of refugees and asylum seekers. Since 1999, member states have been working to create a Common European Asylum System, which provides fairer and quicker asylum decisions.

To respond to the recent increase in the number of refugees, in July 2015 the Council agreed to the resettlement of 22 504 persons in need of international protection, on request of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). This number is in addition to current efforts by member states and to the agreement to relocate 160 000 persons in need of international protection from Italy and Greece to other member states.

Tackling exploitation and trafficking of migrants

In addition to preventing further deaths, the EU also seeks to target the criminal networks which exploit vulnerable migrants. To reinforce work on the ground, there are two active CSDP missions with a focus on migrant smuggling on sea and land.

In May 2015,  the Council agreed to establish an EU military operation, EU NAVFOR Med Operation Sophia, to break the business model of smugglers and traffickers of people in the South Central Mediterranean. The first phase of the operation focused on surveillance and assessment of human smuggling and trafficking networks. The second phase began on 7 October 2015, allowing the operation to conduct boarding, search, seizure and diversion on the high seas of suspicious vessels, within international law.

Also in May 2015, the Council agreed to reinforce the civilian mission EUCAP Sahel Niger. The EU will offer Nigerien authorities support in preventing irregular migration and combatting associated crimes. On 5 October 2015, the Council increased the budget of this mission from € 9.8 million to € 18.4 million for one year.

Following the special meeting of the European Council in April 2015, the Commission adopted in May 2015 an action plan against migrant smuggling (2015-2020). This plan aims at enhancing police and judicial response and strengthening cooperation with third countries through a series of specific actions.

The EU has also taken decisive steps in the area of trafficking in human beings. EU action aims to protect and assist the victims, step up prevention, increase prosecution of traffickers and enhance cooperation with third countries.

Improving the fight against migrant smuggling is also part of bilateral mobility partnerships, through capacity building, joint operational measures, improving border surveillance and management and cross border cooperation.

Improving cooperation on return and readmission

Key figures

In 2014:

  • 252 003 third-country nationals were subject to an obligation to leave the EU
  • 161 309 third-country nationals were effectively returned
  • 40% of returns were voluntary, 43% were forced

An effective and humane return policy does not contradict a more open migration policy. Ensuring the return of irregular migrants is essential to enhance the credibility of EU policies in the field of international protection and legal migration.

This is the reason why the EU cooperates very actively with home countries of irregular migrants. It negotiates and concludes readmission agreements with these countries, setting out the rules for returning persons who are found in an irregular situation. So far, the EU has concluded 17 readmission agreements, and several others are under negotiation. In addition, the Cotonou agreement, between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, also includes a clause on readmission.

On 8 October 2015, home affairs ministers adopted conclusions on the future of the return policy.