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.



Schengen area: Council recommends prolongation of internal border controls


EU leaders agree to boost cooperation with Libya to stem the flow of migrants


Agreement on systematic checks at external borders

On 7 December 2016, the Permanent Representatives Committee approved a compromise text agreed with the Parliament on an amendment to the Schengen Borders Code to reinforce checks at external borders. 



European Border and Coast Guard Agency launches rapid reaction pool

The rapid reaction pool is made of 1 500 officers committed by EU member states and Schengen associated countries.


Prolongation of internal border controls

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.

Preventing illegal migration flows

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.

Addressing urgent humanitarian needs

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.

Valletta mirgation summit interactive map
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Saving lives at sea and targeting criminal networks

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.

Strengthening the EU's external borders

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 October 2016, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency was officially launched. The Agency will closely monitor the EU's external borders and work together with member states to quickly identify and address any potential security threats to the EU's external borders. In December 2016 the Agency launched the rapid reaction pool. Made of 1500 officers, it will be deployed within five working days in a crisis situation.  

Relocation and resettlement

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.

Reinforcing internal solidarity and responsibility

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.

Providing legal avenues

The EU also aims to improve the management of legal migration and asylum flows. Council work in this area includes:

  • an agreement to resettle 20 000 persons in clear need of international protection
  • a proposal for a voluntary humanitarian admission scheme

Return and readmission of illegal migrants

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:

  • works to define which countries of origin can be considered safe
  • negotiates and concludes readmission agreements with third countries
  • elaborates fiches on return and readmission for some specific and relevant third countries