The growing instability in the EU's southern neighbourhood has increased the number of people trying to reach the European Union. The EU and its member states are intensifying efforts to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy.
The European Council plays an important role in this effort, setting the strategic priorities. Based on these priorities, the Council of the EU establishes certain lines of action and provides the mandates for negotiations with third countries. It also adopts legislation and monitors the definition and implementation of specific programmes.
Over the past months, the Council and European Council have worked to build up a strong response in several areas. The presidency of the Council has also activated the integrated political crisis response arrangements (IPCR). These provide tools to step up support to the Council response in the event of a crisis, both at political level and at working level, with the Commission, the EEAS, and relevant agencies.
Responding to the root causes of migration flows requires a broad approach and strong cooperation with countries of origin and transit. Council action in this area seeks to address the reasons causing people to flee, including conflict, political and economic instability, human rights violations and poverty.
The EU supports the response to the urgent needs of Syrian refugees through assistance to UN agencies, Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. It also provides humanitarian aid to migrants on the Western Balkan route.
In October 2014, the Council welcomed the launch of the EU funded Operation Triton, which supports search and rescue operations in the central Mediterranean. A second one, Operation Poseidon, has been patrolling the eastern Mediterranean since 2006.
The EU also seeks to target the criminal networks exploiting vulnerable migrants. To contribute to this aim, in May 2015 the Council established an EU military operation, EU NAVFOR Med Operation Sophia. Also in May 2015, the Council agreed to reinforce the civilian mission EUCAP Sahel Niger, to provide support in preventing irregular migration and combatting associated crimes.
An effective control of the EU's external borders is fundamental for the management of the migration flows within the EU. To achieve this, discussions are ongoing at the Council on the future management of the EU's external borders, including the use of new technologies for border control.
In June 2016, the Council and the European Parliament agreed on a draft regulation for a European border and coast guard.
Relocation: transfer of a person who has made an application for international protection from the member state in charge of examining their application to another member state.
Resettlement: non-EU displaced persons in clear need of international protection are transferred from a non-EU country to an EU member state.
The continued increase in migratory flows through the Mediterranean underlines the need to provide assistance to those member states dealing with high migratory pressures. In the past year, the Council has agreed to the relocation of 160 000 people in need of international protection, from Italy and Greece to other member states.
In addition, the EU has taken action to help member states fulfil their responsibilities to register migrants. As part of this action, the European Council agreed in June 2015, to the creation of facilities ("hotspots") in frontline member states to ensure the registration of migrants.
The EU also aims to improve the management of legal migration and asylum flows. Council work in this area includes:
An effective migration policy must also include the return to their countries of origin of those people who have no right to stay in the EU. To achieve this, the EU: