Monday, 19 November, 2018

Stronger coast guard, asylum agencies final pieces of migration puzzle

13 Sep 2018, 19:51 ( 2 Months ago)

DF-Xinhua Report
EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos. File Photo Xinhua.

A stronger border and coast guard agency, together with a reinforced asylum agency and more legal pathways from member states, would be final pieces of the European migration puzzle, said EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos Thursday.

   One day after European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's State of the Union speech, Avramopoulos elaborated Juncker's suggestion on handling migration, or largely refugee, issues.

   "We are proposing to give a significantly stronger mandate to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency with increased resources and powers that will enable it to provide constant and reliable support to Member States in protecting the EU's external borders, wherever and whenever needed," said the commissioner during a press conference.

   Giving more details about how to strengthen the agency, Avramopoulos told reporter that the European Union (EU) will establish a standing corps of 10,000 operational EU staff by 2020, with "with long and short term secondments" contribution to the standing corps from members.

   "All members of this new operational arm will be able to carry out tasks requiring executive powers and give their support to Member States wherever they need it, whether on patrolling borders, authorizing or refusing entry at the external borders or intercepting persons who have crossed the border irregularly," he said.

   "They will always act under the authority and control of the host Member State where the operation takes place. This is not about infringing on Member States' sovereignty -- but about reinforcing it," said Avramopoulos, noting that the agency's budget "will be beefed up to a total of almost 11.3 billion euro (13.22 billion U.S. dollars) between 2021 and 2027."

   The agency will be able to launch joint operations and deploy staff in all priority third countries, no longer limited only to those neighboring the EU, he noted.

   As to the reinforcement of the European Union Agency for Asylum, the commissioner told reporters that the planned strengthening aims to provide at all times "a rapid and full service to Member States to manage asylum procedures better and faster."

   "This includes technical and operational support -- underpinned by an increased budget of 1.25 billion euro (1.46 billion dollars) for the period 2021-2027."

   "The reinforced Asylum Agency will work hand in hand with the European Border and Coast Guard. Together they will now be able to deploy migration management support teams at all times when needed, including in hotspots and any future controlled centers. These teams will be able to receive arrivals, quickly distinguish between persons who are in need of protection and those who are not, and carry out asylum and return procedures," he said.

   Meanwhile, he reaffirmed the importance of having "a more effective return policy."

   The Commission proposed a targeted review of the Return Directive to speed up return procedures, better prevent absconding, abuses and irregular secondary movements and increase effective returns.

   The EU executive body also proposed a new border procedure through which individuals with rejected asylum applications to be channeled directly towards a simplified return procedure, as well as clearer rules on detention with a new initial minimum period of at least three months, according to the commissioner.

   Asking members for more legal pathways, which is "essential to both reducing irregular and unsafe migration, as well as to creating a more controlled and proactive legal labor migration," Avramopoulos asked member states to step up their efforts to fully turn their 50,000 resettlement pledges into reality as soon as possible and to agree on the proposed Union resettlement framework.

   The members should also urgently deliver on the ambitious reform of the new EU Blue card scheme proposed by EU already in 2016 to attract highly skilled workers to the EU in order to improve the competitiveness of the EU economy, said the commissioner, calling on member states to strengthen cooperation with key African countries by developing and launching pilot projects by the end this year.

   In his State of the Union speech, Junker told members of the European Parliament that migrant arrivals have been drastically reduced -- down 97 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean and 80 percent in the Central Mediterranean.

   "EU operations have helped rescue over 690,000 people at sea since 2015," said Junker.

   But a new paper published by Oxford University's "Border Criminologies" unit, accused Europe of failing to find a "sustainable response" to this summer's migration crisis, instead attempting to reduce the number of arrivals "regardless of the moral, legal and humanitarian consequences".

   Using detailed analysis of figures from the UNHCR and the IOM, the researchers found that a sharp rise in the number of drownings followed a clampdown on NGO search and rescue operations in June and July.

   While there were 20 deaths recorded in April, and 11 in May, in June the number rose to 451. This death toll took place at a time when "departures were comparatively low", said the report, saying the EU is obsessed with cutting migration "regardless of human cost".

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