Mixed Migration Hub Trend Bulletin, October 2018
EU parliament president proposes new scheme for responsibility sharing
• Following a meeting of the European Council on 18 October, the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, floated the idea that member states that oppose hosting refugees can contribute more funds towards European migration and development projects in Africa as a way of sharing responsibility without participating in refugee relocation schemes. Addressing a press conference, Mr. Tajani said, “No relocation - (then) more money for Africa,” and added, “This should be a good compromise. It’s better to have an agreement with a compromise than no agreement.” The proposal could offer a way to bridge differences over refugee relocation and responsibility sharing that have wracked the bloc for years. Germany, which had previously been opposed to any arrangements other than the equitable sharing of responsibility via refugee relocations recently signalled that it might be more open to other arrangements with Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Heiko Maas saying, “We cannot force (others to take in refugees), but those that do not do so must possibly contribute in another way such as...in Africa. Everyone needs to take on some of the responsibility that we all have.”
UNHCR and IOM call on EU countries to tackle anti-migrant sentiments and deaths in the Mediterranean
• UNHCR and IOM have called on EU leaders to take action to address the record and increasing rate of death among migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in the Mediterranean and to tackle anti-migrant rhetoric that has created a dangerously toxic atmosphere in many European countries. The calls came days ahead of a late-October meeting that brought together EU heads of state and government. Speaking about the deplorable situation, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said, “The current tenor of the political debate – painting a picture of Europe under siege – is not only unhelpful but completely out of touch with reality. Arrival numbers are falling but the rate at which people are losing their lives is on the rise. We cannot forget that we are talking about human lives. Debate is welcome – scapegoating refugees and migrants for political gain is not.” While IOM’s Director General, Antonio Vitorino, said, “Perilous irregular migration is in no one’s interest. Together we must invest more in regular migration, enhanced mobility and integration to foster growth and development that benefits both sides of the Mediterranean.” Both agency heads called for concrete steps and practical solutions to the plight of those on the move.
Germany steps up return of failed asylum seekers
• On 8 October, Germany announced that it has stepped up the return of failed asylum seekers from North Africa over the last three years. A spokesperson for the German Ministry of Interior said that, through years of increased cooperation with countries of origin, Germany was able to speed up the return of asylum seekers whose claims were rejected. Between 2015 and 2017, the number of those repatriated during a similar period to Algeria rose from 57 to 504, those repatriated to Morocco rose from 61 to 634, and those repatriated to Tunisia rose from 17 to 251.
Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic to withdraw from GCM
• Austria, Poland and the Czech Republic are the latest countries to express that they will be withdrawing from the Global Compact on Migration (GCM) which is set to be adopted in Marrakesh in December of this year. Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced on 31 October that Austria would be following the US and Hungary in pulling out of the GCM. Speaking about the decision Chancellor Kurz said, “We view some points of the migration pact very critically, such as the mixing up of seeking protection with labour migration.” While on 2 November Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, said, “We believe that here our regulations, our sovereign rules on border protection and migration control are our absolute priority.” Czech Republic’s Prime Minister ,Andrej Babis, ahead of cabinet talks about the GCM said that, “It’s not clearly interpreted and it could be abused. The United States has pulled out, Hungary too, now Austria, and Poland is debating it as well. I don’t like the fact that it blurs the distinction between legal and illegal migration . . . I will propose to partners in the government that we should do the same as Austria and Hungary.” Responding to the withdrawals, the UN special representative for international migration, Louise Arbour, said, “a lot of reasons that are advanced for disengaging are either mistaken or do not reflect what this global compact is all about,” and added, “One of its main objectives is to reduce, if not to eliminate altogether, unsafe, chaotic, illegal poorly managed migration, which is in nobody’s interest – not the migrants, not the host communities, not the countries of origin.”
EU exploring alternatives to ‘regional disembarkation platforms’
• Recent remarks by EU officials indicate that the bloc has effectively tabled proposals for the creation of ‘regional disembarkation platforms’ in North Africa. The initial idea that the EU could set up migrant and refugee hotspots in North African countries was first introduced in June during deliberations over an EU deal on migration but following rejection by almost all North African nations and the AU of the idea, the proposal had seemed to have fallen out of favour. On 26 October, European Commission President, Jean Claude Juncker, told a press conference in Tunis that, “This is no longer on the agenda and never should have been.” While on 31 October a spokesperson for the commission, Natasha Bertaud, told press that the commission was exploring bilateral ‘regional disembarkation arrangements’. Such arrangements would likely by established in an ad-hoc manner and would likely involve ‘cash-for-migrant control’ arrangements.
The UK falls well short of targets for resettlement of minors
• It was recently revealed that only 20 unaccompanied refugee children were resettled to the UK under the Home Office’s Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS). The programme which was launched in 2016 was hoped to resettle 3,000 children from conflict zones in the MENA region over the last two years. This is the only scheme currently available to allow unaccompanied non-EU refugee minors to regularly move to the UK. Similarly disappointing figures were revealed in relation to the Dubs amendment, which was also launched in 2016 and is part of the 2016 Immigration Act. It was initially hoped that the Dubs scheme would relocate around 3,000 vulnerable child refugees from other parts of Europe to the UK but UK ministers set a controversial limit of 480 relocations on the scheme. Recent figures show that only 220 children were relocated to the UK under Dubs, less than half the already severely diminished target. Speaking about the recently released figures, Alf Dubs, the MP who proposed the amendment back in 2016, said, “Unaccompanied children in camps in Europe and conflict zones globally have very few routes to safety. These figures suggest that in the past two years Britain has only taken a few hundred, yet 20,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Europe last year.”
Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers held in Turkey
• According to statements made by Turkish military sources on 31 October, over 556 migrants, refugees and asylum seekers were apprehended across Turkey in relation to irregular travel. Many of the migrants, refugees and asylum seekers were apprehended while traveling on foot and trying to irregularly to cross into Greece. Various operations by the Turkish gendarmerie in the north-western province of Edirne also resulted in apprehension of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers. Authorities said that they had also arrested one person suspected of migrant smuggling and another suspected of human trafficking.