Migration is a complex issue that needs to be handled humanely, fairly and with great sensitivity.
Europe needs migrants to tackle its demographic decline, but disorderly migration often leads to exploitation, human trafficking and tragedy.
During times of crisis, when war or famine has forced large numbers of people to seek refuge in Europe, Member States at the EU's external borders have experienced migratory pressures beyond their capacities. This has resulted in many migrants left waiting in substandard conditions for lengthy periods before having their applications processed.
The European Commission has proposed a new Pact on Migration and Asylum that will result in a humane, comprehensive European approach to migration that can help those in clear need of protection while also attract migrants with the skills needed to contribute to Europe’s growth, innovation and social dynamism.
Ireland, with its own history of migration, will play its part in implementing the new pact and acting in solidarity with other Member States.
Pact on Migration and Asylum
The refugee crisis of 2015-2016 and the following years exposed shortcomings in the EU’s migration system. Member States on the EU’s external borders struggled to cope with large migrant flows while the different asylum systems across Europe lacked proper coordination.
The Pact on Migration and Asylum proposes a predictable, reliable migration management system that will provide common European solutions for this European challenge.
Ireland has repeatedly urged the need for greater solidarity and burden-sharing among Member States in dealing with the issue of migration. We need to find more sustainable solutions involving consensus among Member States, based on a balance of solidarity and responsibility.
The Pact falls under the European Commission’s Promoting our European way of life priority that’s aimed at protecting European citizens and values. It offers a fresh start on migration and will strengthen borders, modernise the EU’s asylum system and enhance cooperation with partner countries to tackle the root causes of disorderly migration.
It brings together EU policy on asylum, integration and border management to provide Member States with a clear, comprehensive system that takes all aspects of migration into consideration.
In April 2021, the Commission adopted the first EU Strategy on voluntary return and reintegration, a key objective under the Pact. The Strategy promotes a common system to encourage migrants with no right to stay in the EU to return to their home country or country of transit, of their own free will, where they will receive support for a short period of time.
Other benefits of the Pact on Migration and Asylum include:
Otherbenefits of the Pact on Migration and Asylum include:
Stronger trust: Fast, integrated procedures will help foster trust between Member States.
Better managed borders: The Pact will result in well-managed Schengen and external EU borders.
Effective solidarity: The Commission will set out what Member States need to do to help another Member State facing a crisis migrant situation.
Skills and Talent: Developing legal pathways for migrants will attract global talent and help make Europe an open, connected continent and reduce irregular migration.
International partnerships: Developing partnerships with key countries of origin and transit will help stem irregular migrant flows.
Flexibility and resilience: Instruments in the new Pact will help ensure fast and effective common responses to a migrant crisis when it begins to emerge.
Progress on migration
The migrant crisis at EU borders during 2015-2016 highlighted a need to reform EU asylum rules. The system needs to be radically improved, but there has been significant progress in recent years that can be built on.
The European Union has been working on a Common European Asylum System (CEAS) since 1999 and in May 2015, the European Commission presented a comprehensive European Agenda on Migration in response to the migrant crisis of the time.
The Agenda framework allowed for immediate action to be taken to tackle the human tragedy across the whole of the Mediterranean, including emergency schemes to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece, Italy and Hungary to other Member States
An EU Action Plan against migrant smuggling was also introduced to protect those fleeing desperate situations from being exploited by criminals and a Joint Action Plan was agreed with Turkey to help reduce irregular migration and provide assistance to those in need of international protection.
The European Commission also transformed Frontex into a new, stronger European Border and Coast Guard Agency and in 2020 presented new proposals to reform the Common European Asylum System.
The EU is already the world’s leading humanitarian aid donor and develops partnerships with non-EU countries where large numbers of migrants originate.
Ireland currently has no European Union obligation to take in refugees as it negotiated an opt-in or opt-out clause on justice and immigration measures when the Lisbon Treaty was drafted.
However, Ireland has voluntarily participated in EU relocation and resettlement schemes and established the Irish Refugee Protection Programme (IRPP) as part of its response to the 2015-16 migrant crisis.
Under this programme, Ireland committed to accept up to 4,000 people into the State through the EU and UNHCR Refugee Resettlement Programmes. By the end of 2019, the majority of these commitments had been fulfilled.
In December 2019, plans were unveiled for Ireland to welcome up to a further 2,900 refugees between 2020 and 2023 through a combination of resettlement programmes and a new Community Sponsorship Ireland initiative.
Ireland benefited from €68.6 million of EU funding to help manage migration from 2015 to 2020. The funding was made up of €58.1 million from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) and €10.5 million from the Internal Security Fund (ISF).
The AMIF supports Member States in managing migration flows while funding under the ISF supports efforts to protect the security of citizens and manage the EU’s external borders. The total EU AMIF allocation for 2021-2027 will amount to €9.882 billion in current prices. The overall ISF budget for the period will be €1.9 billion.
Irish sea rescues
One of the most heart-wrenching aspects of irregular migration in recent years is the huge numbers of refugees who have tragically lost their lives at sea.
The European Union responded when the 2015/16 crisis first emerged by tripling the budget for search and rescue operations carried out by the EU’s border protection agency, Frontex.
Ireland played its part in these humanitarian rescue operations by deploying Irish Navy ships to help rescue migrants from illegally overcrowded boats.
Between 2015 and 2017 Irish Defence Forces rescued over 17,500 migrants and apprehended many suspected smugglers and traffickers.
Óglaigh na hÉireann was recognised with an Irish People of the Year Award in December 2015 for the work of the Naval Service’s humanitarian missions in the Mediterranean.
The following year, the Defence Forces received the European Movement Ireland European of the Year award for its contribution to international peacekeeping and humanitarian work.
Fact to consider
- In 2019
10% of all the world's refugees and only a fraction of internally displaced persons were living in the EU.
Without migration, the European population would have shrunk by half a million, given that 4.2 million children were born and 4.7 million people died in the EU: Eurostat.
- More generally
The majority of refugees from Africa and Asia do not come to Europe, but rather move to neighbouring countries.
- Without migration the EU population would have shrunk by half a million in 2019, given that 4.2 million children were born and 4.7 million people died.
- Across the EU, 141,846 illegal border crossings were detected in 2019, representing a 4.9% decrease compared with the number recorded in 2018.
- In 2019 almost 30,000 people were resettled by Member States and Norway, with most transfers occurring within the framework of EU programmes.
- According to Eurostat, Member States and Norway received 17,800 asylum applications from unaccompanied minors in 2019.
- In 2019, around 21,200 people in need of international protection were resettled from non-EU countries to EU Member States, 12% more than in 2018.
- According to Eurostat, some 168,297 residence permits were valid in Ireland as of 31 December 2019. This was an increase of 18.2 per cent over the total of 142,286 valid residence permits at the end of 2018.
- According to rounded Eurostat figures, some 7,455 persons were refused entry at Ireland’s borders in 2019, an increase of 55 per cent over the 4,795 refusals in 2018.
- A total of 298 deportation orders were issued in Ireland during 2019. Some 255 third-country nationals availed of voluntary return, 106 of whom were assisted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).