After taking stock of the progress the EU has made on migration, the European Commission has laid out a set of measures for continued improvement.
Over the last four years, irregular migration into Europe has consistently decreased; and current migration numbers are around 10 per cent of figures from 2015, when the EU began to experience a “refugee crisis”. 2018 saw around 150,000 irregular crossings of EU borders: the lowest level in five years. Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, told the Commission that Europe’s external land and sea borders are “better managed and better protected than ever before”, primarily due to the efforts of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.
First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: “Over the past four years the EU has made significant progress with tangible results in addressing the challenge of migration. In very difficult circumstances, we acted together. Europe is no longer experiencing the migration crisis we lived in 2015, but structural problems remain. Member States have a duty to protect and care for those they shelter. Continuing to work together through a comprehensive approach, in solidarity, and with a fair sharing of responsibility, is the only way forward if the EU is to be equal to the migration challenge.”
Avramopoulos detailed areas still in need of support, identifying Spain, Morocco and Greece as regions which remain under “particular migratory pressure”; and pledged continued support from the EU towards these areas. In the last year, Spain has received just under €36 million in emergency assistance from the EU; a €140 million border management support package is in the process of being distributed to Morocco; while Greece – which saw around 10,000 arrivals per day in 2015, now reduced to a 2018 average of 81 per day – has benefited from nearly €2 billion in targeted support.
The Commission highlighted the need to address the primary causes of irregular migration, including human smuggling and trafficking and the international conflicts that lead to an influx of refugees; and emphasised that “continuous, determined action” would be required to maintain each of the four pillars of the European Agenda on Migration:
- Tackling the causal factors of irregular migration, through international aid, strong action to prevent human smuggling and implementing international readmission agreements;
- Enforcing strong border management by supporting the work of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency;
- Extending continued support to refugees and displaced persons; and
- Reinforcing legal migration routes, which have been shown to act as a deterrent to illegal migration.
High Representative and Vice President Federica Mogherini said: “Our work with the African Union and the United Nations is bringing results. We are assisting thousands of stranded people, helping many to go safely back home to start an activity, saving lives, fighting traffickers. The flows have decreased, but still too many put their lives at risk and every single life not saved is one too many. That’s why we will continue to cooperate with our international partners and with the countries concerned to provide protection for people most in need, address the root causes of migration, dismantle the traffickers’ networks and set up pathways for safe, orderly and legal migration. Migration stays as a global challenge that can be tackled, as we’ve chosen to do as the EU, through joint work and strong partnerships.”