The first priority of any EU action must be the imperative of saving lives and ensuring the dignity of all persons. It is therefore essential that a comprehensive policy is developed in order to address this issue in an effective and humane manner.
Mere crisis management is not enough. A comprehensive and long-term approach is required with a European Asylum and Immigration Policy that looks beyond the internal challenges of receiving and distributing new arrivals. It should seek to address the root causes of migration for both refugees and economic migrants, taking into account Europe’s long-term economic and demographic evolutions into account.
The following proposals aim to demonstrate how a federal approach built on European solutions is the best hope of achieving these goals.
1. Member States should reassert their commitment to the principles underlying the Schengen agreement and the exceptional and temporary nature of any suspensions of free movement within the Schengen area must be stressed. Any suspension should be decided collectively not unilaterally. The need for border controls that have been re-established in response to security threats or large movements of people must be continuously reassessed and should be withdrawn as soon as possible.
2. A mandatory relocation system should be set up. It should distribute asylum seekers based on a fair allocation formula (or “quota”), considering GDP, population, unemployment rates and the proportion of asylum claims already received should be implemented on a significant scale reflecting the total amount of people arriving in the European Union and seeking asylum. It should be administered by a European Asylum Agency, entitled to issue EU Asylum Identity Document valid for the Schengen area, with sufficient resources to directly assess asylum demands at the borders of the European Union.
3. As it is now, the European Boarder and Coast Guard aims only to complement national border and coastal forces and has available negligible resources. As soon as possible the agency should evolve into a true federal European Border Service, including a European Coast Guard with its own personnel, means and infrastructure. This service would go beyond “support” operations to Member States and have direct and independent responsibility to manage the common border of the European Union, incorporating all relevant national forces in a federal system.
4. For third-country nationals who wish to reach the EU for economic reasons, the EU should modernise its visa policy, including a modern system to allow entry to the European Union. Such a system should take into account areas of the jobs market where there is a particular shortage in the workforce in the single market. People interested in coming to Europe to work under this system should be able to apply in the EU delegations or dedicated EU migration offices in their country of origin.
5. The EU must continue to work with countries of origin in order to create peace, stability and to support such countries’ sustainable economic development leading to a reduction in the number of people forced to or choosing to leave such counties to come to Europe. The EU should work closely with transit countries with particular attention to preventing the operation of people-smuggling networks.