More Flexible Solidarity in the European Asylum and Migration Policy

The large number of refugees and other migrants who have come to Europe over the last two years has caused the EU member states that received most of the asylum seekers, to reach their capacity limits. With a view to new arrivals and their long-term integration, it is now necessary to develop new and, above all, common strategies to address the migration flows to Europe. The 2017 MEDAM Assessment Report ‘Sharing responsibility for refugees and expanding legal immigration' focuses on two core messages:

Distribute the responsibility for refugees more equitably

A meaningful start can be made through more financial burden sharing – globally as well as within the EU. In return for substantially higher financial support from the EU and its member states, non-EU host countries should be encouraged to grant a firm legal status to refugees and facilitate their social and economic integration in the host country. The EU and its member states should help by better linking humanitarian aid to development assistance to ensure that public services and infrastructure are adequate even in the face of protracted refugee situations. Furthermore, EU member states should complement financial burden sharing with the resettling of a limited number of refugees, from both outside the EU to EU member states, and within the EU, from member states on the external EU border to other member states.

Expanding legal immigration from non-EU countries to EU member states

EU member states should expand legal employment opportunities for non-EU citizens at the same time that the EU and its member states are working to curb irregular immigration. At present, many irregular immigrants to the EU apply for asylum not because they require protection, but because this is the only way for them to enter the labor markets of EU member states. Although many such immigrants never receive refugee status, only a few ever return to their countries of origin. To curb such irregular immigration, it will not be sufficient to try to close the ‘back door’ of irregular travel to the EU through better external border security and agreements with countries of origin and transit along the major migrant routes. It will be important to offer potential irregular migrants an alternative that works for them as well as for countries of origin and destination, by opening the ‘front door’ of regular employment in EU member states to those who are willing to acquire the necessary language skills and vocational qualifications.

To facilitate access to language and vocational training in developing countries, including for low-skilled individuals, EU member states should make such training part of their development assistance. Firms would gain access to a larger pool of qualified workers and the effects of population ageing might be eased.

“The number of asylum seekers who enter the EU irregularly has declined sharply from its peak in late 2015, offering a much-needed respite to the few EU countries that have received most asylum seekers, and allowing them to plan concrete measures. This opportunity should also be used to develop new and common approaches for managing migration flows – also so as to strengthen Europe’s cohesion and capacity to act”, explains Wolfgang Rohe, Executive Director of Stiftung Mercator.

MEDAM Senior Project Director and Kiel Institute president Dennis Snower emphasized the importance of comprehensive approach: “In our first MEDAM Assessment Report we analyze the most pressing challenges in the areas of asylum and migration, and describe both the complexity of the challenges and explain their interdependencies. We propose guidelines as a starting point to develop proposals for specific reforms and policy interventions. These challenges can only be overcome jointly and with an open view beyond Europe’s borders.”

2017 MEDAM Assessment Report