When, last year, we were tasked with preparing a bi-partisan approach to the European Parliament’s response to migration, we knew it would be challenging. We did not know that we would be doing this in the midst of the worst refugee crisis since the Second World War, exasperated by the rise of populist movements across Europe and hampered by the security challenges we face as a continent.
So it has not been easy. We are perhaps too used to preaching from our entrenched ideological towers, but if we stand any chance of getting something meaningful through we know that we all have to move away from scoring partisan points and come up with the holistic response our citizens demand.
Solidarity: the basis for any action on migration
There is no quick fix for migration. We need to look at every single aspect and come up with an all-encompassing plan. In our report this is what we have tried to do. The first line of the operative part of the text is that solidarity must be the principle upon which any action on migration is based.
From a union of shared values, we must now become a union of shared responsibility Roberta Metsola MEP
The events of the last days have shown us, again, that we still need to do more to prevent loss of life at sea. People are still drowning. We are calling for a permanent Union response in search and rescue operations. We acknowledge that Frontex and navy operations such as Operation Sophia have played their part in saving lives but we need to go further.
No internal borders requires strengthened external borders
When it comes to Frontex, the recently-proposed European Border and Coast Guard aims at replacing the agency and is meant to ensure integrated border management at our external borders, with a view to managing migration effectively and ensuring a high level of internal security.
The abolishment of internal border controls in Schengen has to go hand‑in‑hand with strengthening external borders. This is a pre-requisite for Schengen to function properly.
The EU needs to strengthen its border protection and tackle criminal networks. More measures are necessary to enhance the capacity of the Schengen Area to address the new challenges facing Europe and preserve the fundamental principles of security and free movement of persons.
Everyone must feel safe in our cities. Security fears caused by an influx of people exist and States must fulfil their obligations at the external borders if these fears are to be in any way allayed.
When it comes to integration, the way forward is to view this as a two-way process. Of course, it almost goes without saying that people granted protection must be given all the rights they are entitled to, and yes, we must do more to keep families together, but at the same time it is also fair to expect respect for the values upon which our Union is built.
States must fulfil their obligations as soon as possible
On relocation, this is a point we have come back to time and time again. If we are a union of shared values, we must now become a union of shared responsibility. Every Member State must play its part. The establishment of urgent relocation measures is a move in the right direction but the numbers we have seen so far are very disappointing. States must fulfil their obligations as soon as possible.
When it comes to resettlement, given the unprecedented flows of migrants that have reached - and continue to reach - our borders, we know that we need a binding legislative approach to resettlement. Other legal routes for people in need of protection should also be looked at. These include humanitarian visas. We need these routes if we are to stop people being forced into the hands of traffickers.
On Turkey, we emphasise the need for all parties to implement the the recent EU-Turkey Joint Action Plan agreement and for Turkey to fulfil its commitments to prevent irregular migration flows from its territory to the EU.
It is also fair to expect respect for the values upon which our Union is built
Our report goes into detail on the reform of the Dublin system, which I think we can all safely say has failed to reach its goals.
Not everyone who arrives in Europe is eligible for protection. We understand that. And we understand that the safe return of those who are not eligible must be carried out. Only 36% of those who were ordered to leave the Union were returned in 2014. There is therefore a clear need to improve the effectiveness of the Union’s return system - and this is something that simply must be done.
Tackling the causes of migration
We also outline what we think must be done to tackle the root causes of migration and understand that, in the long term, greater commitment is needed in solving the geo-political issues that affect the root causes of migration – war, poverty, corruption, hunger and a lack of opportunities means people will still feel forced to flee to Europe unless Europe also looks at how to help re-build those countries.
That means that the Commission and Member States must put up the money to help build capacity in third countries: facilitating investment and education; strengthening and enforcing asylum systems; helping to manage borders better; reinforcing legal and judicial systems.
We call on the EU to help third countries to build up their asylum systems and integration strategies to allow people to seek protection there.
On funding we want things to be made easier, more transparent and allow more organisations to make use of the funds available. We welcome the recently-established Emergency Trust Fund for Africa and the 1.8 billion euros pledged to the fund, but we want Member States to continue contributing.
The Commission and Member States must put up the money to help build capacity in third countries
When it comes to options for legal migration, the right for Member States to determine the volumes of admission of third‑country nationals seeking work is clear, but we ask Member States and the EU to identify any possible gaps in the market that could possibly be filled by people from outside the Union. We also call for the planned revision of the Blue Card Directive to be ambitious.
We talk about labour exploitation and the need to crack down on abusive employers who exploit the most vulnerable and underline that any effort to eradicate labour exploitation must take the dual approach of effectively prosecuting those who abuse while protecting the victims.
It is time to manage every aspect of migration better. Indifference is not an option. It is time for action and results.
Members of the European Parliament Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs have until mid-February to submit amendments to this report and it is expected that the report will be wrapped up by mid-May at the latest, for a final vote in plenary.