March 4. 2024. 11:31

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EU lawmakers: Migrant reception capacities ‘on brink of failure’

The system for migrants arriving in the EU has “come to the brink of failure” mostly due to inadequate planning and growing needs, the head of a delegation of EU lawmakers declared after completing a visit to three reception hotspots on Wednesday evening (22 February).

“We exchanged views on the problems with reception capacities in Europe, which have come to the brink of failure due to several factors,” MEP Lena Düpont said on behalf of the delegation, after visiting migration centres in Brussels, Calais, and Ter Apel.

According to them, these factors include “the inadequacy of contingency planning after the 2015 crisis, the increase of material and housing needs following the rising numbers of arrivals after the decrease during the pandemic, as well as unforeseen circumstances such as the activation of the Temporary Protection Directive for people fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine”.

Migration is a topic that once again ranks high in the EU agenda. Together with the Ukrainian refugee crisis that started a year ago, arrivals through the main routes, such as the Mediterranean Sea and the Western Balkans, have dramatically increased.

According to data from the EU border and coast guard agency Frontex, illegal border crossings increased by 77% in 2022 compared to the previous year.

The increasing number of arrivals, combined with the lack of migration management coordinated at the EU level, has emboldened human traffickers.

Immigrants who arrive are stuck in different hotspots at the EU borders or inside the Union’s territory, living in precarious conditions and burdened by complex red tape, due to the fragmented application of the asylum system, which is different for each EU country.

“MEPs are right to draw attention to the unacceptable situation unfolding in several EU countries, which is a result of the same lack of political will we have seen in places like Greece for many years,” Stephanie Pope, a migration expert at Oxfam EU, told EURACTIV.

“There is no justification for people seeking safety in Europe having to live in slum-like conditions while remaining locked in legal limbo,” Pope argued.

Safe passages?

The delegation looked into the situation with irregular crossing and smugglers’ activities but made no mention of legal or safe passages in the outcome of the visit.

“The most important thing for us is the safe passage,” said Jess Sharman, operations manager of Care4Calais, an organisation providing humanitarian and legal assistance to people in transit.

“The vast majority of the people that we meet in northern France have no legal or safe way to cross the Channel,” Sharman told EURACTIV.

According to her, these people should benefit from the temporary protection scheme in the UK that Ukrainians are already enjoying.

“That would stop smuggling activities, if [migrants] can go with safe legal routes.”

MEPs’ conclusions

The MEPs said their findings would “feed into our discussion in Parliament, where we aim to conclude the negotiations on the New Pact on Migration and the Common European Asylum System before the end of the current parliamentary term, thus ensuring better and more effective legislation and striking a fair balance between responsibility and solidarity”.

The EU is working on a series of pieces of legislation – with the aim of approving them before the next EU elections in spring 2024 – to eventually give the EU a harmonised system in managing migration.

A roadmap – which is not legally binding – was set by EU institutions in September 2022.

However, member states are not moving in the direction of supporting a more robust welcoming system but insisted on increasing control of EU borders and migrant returns in the most recent European Council conclusions of 10 February.

Migration reform to be approved by 2024, say parliament leaders and diplomats

The European Parliament together with the permanent representatives of Czechia, Sweden, Spain, Belgium and France agreed to approve the Pact on Migration and Asylum by February 2024, to ensure that the legislation is adopted before the next European elections in May 2024.