Escaping the Escape -  - ebook

Escaping the Escape ebook



Conflict and war, but most of all overwhelming despair are driving massive numbers of mostly young people from the Middle East and North Africa, Central Africa, the Balkan, Ukraine and Central Asia to leave their homes for Europe in search of safety. What do they need most in order to lead their lives in peace and security? How can opportunities for a meaningful and secure future in their countries of origin be improved? How can the EU – acting in concert with its principles – support these people in their search for freedom, self-determination and well-being? These are the questions addressed in "Escaping the Escape." The publication features authors from refugee-source countries and experts from Europe who examine the situation in the crisis regions and offer concrete recommendations for actions to be taken in each region. Countries and regions covered in this publication are: Afghanistan, Algeria and Sahel, the Balkans, Egypt, Eritrea, Gaza, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Yemen.

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Bertelsmann Stiftung (ed.)

Escaping the Escape

Toward Solutions for theHumanitarian Migration Crisis

Bibliographic information published by the Deutsche Nationalbibliothek

The Deutsche Nationalbibliothek lists this publication in the Deutsche Nationalbibliografie; detailed bibliographic data is available on the Internet at

© 2017 Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, Gütersloh

Responsible: Christian-Peter Hanelt, Gabriele Schöler

Editor: Barbara Serfozo, Berlin

Copy editor: Josh Ward

Production editor: Marcel Hellmund

Cover design: Elisabeth Menke

Cover illustration: Shutterstock/Janossy Gergely

Typesetting and Printing: Hans Kock Buch- und Offsetdruck GmbH, Bielefeld ISBN 978-3-86793-749-8 (Print)

ISBN 978-3-86793-780-1 (E-Book PDF)

ISBN 978-3-86793-781-8 (E-Book EPUB)



Johannes Hahn


Aart De Geus

A Note from the Editors

On the Far Side of Crisis: Moving Beyond a Security-BasedMigration Approach in the EU

Elena Ambrosetti, Enza Roberta Petrillo

Greece: Both A Transit and Host Country

Thanos Dokos

The Balkans as Europe’s Blind Spot: A Transit Route andMigrant-Origin Area

Dane Taleski

Migration, Refugees and Internal Displacement in Ukraine

Hryhoriy Nemyria

Turkey as a Refugee Transit and Host Country

Sezer Özcan

Afghanistan: Current Migration Patterns and Policy Challenges

Mariam Safi

Iran and the Immigration Crisis: Examining the Causes and Consequences of Afghan Immigration

Jafar Haghpanah, Mandana Tishehyar

Emigration from Iraq: Who Wants to Leave and Why?

Munqith M. Dagher

The Syrian Crisis and Flow of the Syrian Refugees

Radwan Ziadeh

On the Situation of Syrian Refugees in Jordan and Lebanon

Ziad Majed

Human Mobility in the Euro-Mediterranean Region: The Case of Egypt

Ayman Zohry, Khaled Hassan

The Gaza Strip: Reversing the Desire to Flee

Ramy Abdu

The Refugee Crisis and Yemen: Prospects for and Conditions of Improvement

Mujahed Ahmed Al-Sha’ab

Irregular Somali Immigration to the EU: Causes and Remedies

Osman Moallim

Eritrea – National Service, Forced Labor and Mass Exodus:Is There a Way Out?

Abdulkader Saleh Mohammad

More Effective Options in Addressing Irregular Sudanese and South Sudanese Migration to Europe

Amira Ahmed Mohamed

A Look Deep Inside Nigeria’s Migration Conundrums

J. Shola Omotola

Irregular Migration in Libya: Analysis, Facts and Recommendations

Zakariya El Zaidy

Migration Flows from Tunisia: Analysis of Socioeconomic Causes in the Post-Revolutionary Period

Safa Ben Said

Migration and Refugees in Algeria and the Sahel: Targeting a Win-Win Neighborhood Policy in the Mediterranean

Arslan Chikhaoui

Morocco as an Origin, Transit and Host Country for Migrants

Mehdi Lahlou

Escaping the Escape – A Résumé

Stefani Weiss

The Authors

Migration routes to Europe and within Africa

Political transformation

Selected demographics data: share of persons older than 65 years, youth unemployment


Johannes Hahn

The EU response to the ongoing migration and refugee crisis is the litmus test for my generation. It is the basis upon which future generations of both EU citizens and people in affected countries will judge whether we have lived up to the high standards of strength and solidarity that we set ourselves.

If we are to succeed, we have to show that we have a true appreciation of the factors that drive these unprecedented flows. In addition, we must prove that we have sustainable solutions that can help those in need, while protecting the interests of our Union. As we endeavour to do this, we cannot lose sight of the concerns and fears that have arisen within European society, too.

The fundamental challenge is that of identifying policies together with our partner countries that are smart, sustainable, effective and respectful of the dignity of the people we are seeking to help. Furthermore, an efficient and sound policy must be tailored to the complex situation in each country concerned. There is no one-size-fits-all policy for host, transit and source countries of migration alike. There are no off-the-shelf solutions for complex regional conflicts.

I therefore welcome this study by the Bertelsmann Stiftung since it provides a valuable insight from within the countries most affected by this human tragedy.

The EU wants to invest more in the stability of these countries. This means stronger support for the roots of socioeconomic development: better education (including vocational training), health care, civic rights and improved access to the labor market. It means more emphasis on good governance and deep democracy, but also on the development and diversification of the business sector. Civil society plays a crucial role in ensuring that universal values, notably the respect for human rights and good governance, are at the basis of our action.

The various contributors to this study, while coming from different geographical regions and experiences, all express one clear message: It is only possible to address the phenomenon of mass flight when you understand the very individual fears, expectations and hopes of those who are fleeing.

When speaking about the refugee crisis and migratory pressure impacting the countries in our neighbourhood, we must resist the temptation of referring to a single, generalized picture. Only then can we hope to find real solutions to help improve the lives of people by supporting their aspirations for stability, liberty and prosperity.

Johannes Hahn

EU Commissioner for

European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations


Aart De Geus

“Wir schaffen das!” (“We can do it!”) These words, coming from Chancellor Angela Merkel – at the height of Europe’s humanitarian migration crisis – have resonated strongly among all Germans. The phrase has become at once a banner loudly proclaiming Germany’s “culture of welcoming” and the focus of much criticism. In Europe, but also in Germany, the voices and actions of those opposed to a culture of welcoming have been quickly heard and felt, underscoring the fact that not everyone everywhere believes that receiving and integrating refugees and migrants is something that one should obviously do. What began as a rejection among central and eastern European states of a European Union (EU) quota scheme for allocating refugees within the Union has quickly led to new fences and closed borders within the Schengen area. Across Europe, xenophobic sentiments are gaining traction among politicians and citizens alike. To make matters worse, in many areas throughout Europe, this climate of hostility knows no limits when it comes to verbal and physical attacks on refugees as well as on politicians and volunteers who promote policies designed to facilitate the reception and integration of refugees.

Amid the heated debates, there is one aspect of the situation that often goes overlooked: The reception and integration of refugees in Germany, the EU or elsewhere will not resolve the problems of migration and human displacement but merely treat their symptoms. Indeed, we must address the spectrum of root causes for both, from persecution to war to the lack of opportunities for building a secure and viable future for oneself. What can we do to create a situation in which people are no longer compelled to leave their homeland and embark on an often-dangerous journey to a distant country? Why do people flee their homeland? What roles do various actors in their homeland play in driving migration? What role do international actors, such as the EU, play in this regard? What actions must be taken, particularly by the EU, to improve the situation locally within the countries of origin? As the international actor bearing the greatest consequences of its inability to respond effectively to the crisis thus far, the EU must act quickly. How can we nurture an environment in which people no longer fear the tyranny of violence, terrorism, despotic rule, war and hunger, and can instead enjoy the benefits of access to education, training and jobs under conditions of peace, freedom, security, the rule of law and a well-being that goes beyond survival? And, finally, how do people from these countries view the situation in their homeland? What actions do they believe international leaders and organizations should take?

With these urgent needs in mind, we present “Escaping the Escape,” a publication designed to contribute to debates on the root causes of human displacement and migration among those in search of a better life. The publication focuses on the views and opinions of those directly affected, and it invites experts from countries of origin as well as transit and target countries to analyze the situation in each country before providing the EU, in particular, with recommendations on how to effectively address specific issues.

Through the instruments provided by the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), the EU explicitly targets the strategic goal of promoting a “ring of well-governed countries” along its borders with which it can “enjoy close and cooperative relations.” The ENP emphasizes economic, political and cultural cooperation with an eye toward modernization as a means of strengthening ties to the EU among those countries without accession prospects. These efforts are intended to help strengthen respect for the pillars of modernity, such as human rights and the rule of law, as well as the development of market economies.

The ENP has been the subject of much criticism – some justified, some not. More recent and certainly well-founded criticism has focused on the need to align a consistent joint European foreign and security policy with a joint European asylum and migration policy as well as with a joint European development policy. To take up each point of criticism here and debate it anew would go beyond the scope of this publication. Instead, the authors featured here aim to offer constructive suggestions for the ENP while providing insight into the challenges specific to each country within the EU’s neighborhood, and to thereby facilitate the creation of a “ring of well-governed countries.” This is in the interest not only of those who have left their homeland and those who have remained behind to live in an unstable or unsafe environment, but also of the EU itself.

The contributions presented here are very diverse, but they have one feature in common: Each author, in his or her unique way, calls upon the EU to demonstrate its commitment to the principles of democracy and the rule of law both in its handling of incoming refugee flows and its dealings with less-than-democratic regimes. All too often, these regimes are granted concessions with no strings attached, or they are not held to account when they fail to meet any of the conditions that had been set beforehand.

My sincere gratitude goes to the 25 authors featured here, not only for their insightful analysis and recommendations, but also for their open and constructive criticism offered in several cases even in the face of personal risk. I would also like to thank our language editor, Barbara Serfozo, whose painstaking efforts and thoughtful editing have nonetheless retained the individual character and voice of each author.

I would also like to thank my colleagues at the Bertelsmann Stiftung for their efforts in bringing this publication to print. Special thanks goes to Stefani Weiss for her summary analysis and outlook featured at the end of this volume. Finally, I would like to thank Christian-Peter Hanelt, Sylvia Schmidt and Gabriele Schöler, who not only sparked the idea behind this publication, but also did much of the work themselves, thereby ensuring its success despite the many challenges faced.

Aart De Geus

Chairman of the Executive Board

Bertelsmann Stiftung

A Note from the Editors

Our overriding objective with this publication has been to provide experts from each country and/or region the opportunity to express their concerns and needs with respect to the situation in their native country as well as their views regarding what action must be taken to effectively address the drivers of migration. This is less a matter of meticulous accuracy and academic, dispassionate exposition. To be sure, we are well aware of the potential for controversy deriving from individual contributions presented here.

The findings, interpretations and conclusions expressed in the articles of this book are those of the respective author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Bertelsmann Stiftung. Responsibility for the information and views set out in the individual articles lies entirely with the author(s).

The data provided in table format at the beginning of each chapter (entitled “Basic facts”) were collected by the editors and draw upon various sources, including the Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index (BTI), the CIA World Factbook, Eurostat, UNCTAD, UN Data and the World Bank.

The contributions presented here were authored in the period from March 2016 to July 2016, and were edited by October 2016. Given the nature of current global migration flows, it is impossible to provide the most recent data available in a print publication of this nature. The figures provided by authors may therefore vary from contribution to contribution. That said, we have done our best to ensure that at least UNHCR data provided here are as up-to-date as possible. However, in many cases, we have relied on data provided and or collected by the authors themselves, as official statistics on population movements and refugees are in many countries not reliable or, in other cases, not available to the general public. As a result, we cannot guarantee perfect accuracy of all data featured in this publication.

The maps provided here are for reference only. The boundaries, colors, denominations and any other information shown on these maps do not imply on the part of the editors any judgment on the legal status of any territory or the endorsement or acceptance of such boundaries.

Although the size of migration flows along each route does vary, the arrows featured on the migration routes map are uniform in size. The map is designed to orient readers with respect to individual migration routes. Dynamic maps featuring up-to-date fluctuations in routes and number of migrants are provided by organizations such as the IOM. For further information regarding such maps, please refer to the list of relevant links below.

On terminology

The editors use the term migrant to refer to all people on the move who have yet to complete the legal process of claiming asylum. This group includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status, as well as people who are seeking jobs and better lives, who governments are likely to rule are economic migrants.

QR Codes

QR codes are provided at the beginning of each country-specific contribution. These codes provide the interested reader with further background material for each country, such as the relevant Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2016 country report. The additional QR code printed on this page leads you to a landing page where you find a collection of selected additional background material beyond such country reports.

Selected links for further reading

IOM: Migration Flows – Europe

IOM: The World’s Congested Human Migration Routes in 5 Maps

UNHCR: Refugees/Migrants Emergency Response – Mediterranean

UNHCR: Refugees/Migrants Emergency Response – Mediterranean, Greece

UNHCR: Refugees/Migrants Emergency Response – Mediterranean, Italy

Basic facts sources

BTI (Bertelsmann Transformation Index). Bertelsmann Transformation Index 2016. Gütersloh: Verlag Bertelsmann Stiftung, 2016.

CIA (Central Intelligence Agency). World Factbook. Washington, D.C.: CIA, 22 November 2016.

European Commission. Eurostat Database. Brussels: Eurostat, 22 November 2016.

UN Data (United Nations Data). Country Data Services. New York: UN Data, 22 November 2016.

UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development). World Investment Report. Geneva: UNCTAD, 22 November 2016.

World Bank. World Bank Open Data. Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 22 November 2016.

On the Far Side of Crisis: Moving Beyond a Security-Based Migration Approach in the EU

Elena Ambrosetti, Enza Roberta Petrillo

Migration systems in the Mediterranean: Historical overview of population movements (1948–2017)

Along with the border between the United States and Mexico, the Mediterranean is one of the highest-volume migration areas in the world. According to the United Nations, about 470 million people lived in the countries bordering the Mediterranean area as of 2010, representing about 6.8 percent of the world’s population. That same year, 32.7 million migrants were resident in Mediterranean countries, and 17 million people emigrated from these countries (representing 8 % of all international migrants). A significant proportion of these flows stayed within the region, with nearly 7 million migrants moving from their home to another Mediterranean country.

The Mediterranean basin has historically been characterized by the regular circulation of people within the region. However, the decades from the end of World War II to the present (1948–2017) have seen several distinct migration-system shifts in the region, driven by changing economic and political circumstances (de Haas 2010: 60). Using a chronological approach, we can identify five periods that collectively describe the evolution of migration in the Mediterranean region during this period.

1st period (1948–1963): This postwar period was dominated by reconstruction processes in the countries of northern and western Europe. These countries were in need of workers to support these efforts, and so imported labor mainly from southern European countries. By the beginning of the 1960s, about 7.6 million migrants were living in western Europe. Within the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean shores, population movements were mostly internal at this time.

2nd period (1963–1973): This period saw a decrease in migration flows from southern European countries to western Europe, accompanied by a significant growth in migration flows originating from southern and eastern Mediterranean countries toward Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Switzerland. France and Germany became the most significant migrant-destination countries in Europe; both countries suffered from labor shortages and struck bilateral agreements aimed at recruiting migrants from southern and eastern Mediterranean countries. In France, migrants came in large numbers from the country’s former colonies, in particular from the Maghreb, while in Germany there was a huge increase in migration flows from Turkey. This new migration wave would eventually replace migration from southern European countries, in particular Italy.

3rd period (1973–1995): This period effectively begins with the oil crisis of 1973, which marked a turning point for international migration in the Mediterranean region. In part because of the crisis, European nations that had traditionally served as destination countries adopted restrictive migration policies. Western European governments were confident that their restrictive measures vis-à-vis migration would lead to a reversal in previous trends, with migrants returning to their country of origin in significant numbers. However, policymakers ultimately succeeded only in transforming the nature and destination of migratory flows. Migrants already residing in western European countries resisted leaving, as they were afraid that newly restrictive policies would bar them from ever returning. However, their families migrated to Europe through family-reunification policies.

In the early 1980s, the flow of refugees and asylum-seekers to Europe increased significantly. Moreover, from the early 1970s on, southern European countries shifted from a position of net emigration to become popular destination countries. Indeed, as labor-migration channels to western Europe narrowed or closed, southern European countries became a kind of new El Dorado for migrants from the countries of the Mediterranean’s southern shore, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, eastern Europe.

4th period (1996–2010): An economic upswing marked the end of the 1990s and early 2000s, accompanying the start of a new phase of migration in the Mediterranean region. During this period, Spain and Italy were the main receiving countries for unskilled labor migration from the countries of the southern Mediterranean shore, eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America. Migrants primarily found employment in agriculture, family-care services, food services, small retail businesses and the construction sector.

The international economic downturn that began in 2008 struck southern Europe with particular virulence. However, its effects did not translate immediately into changes in regional migration patterns. It took a few years (generally two to four) for the countries hardest hit by the crisis to adopt restrictive migration policies, seeking to slow immigration in a period of economic stagnation and rising unemployment rates. This reaction echoed responses to the 1973 crisis. The period ended with the beginning of a new crisis following the so-called Arab Spring, which has lasted until the present day.

5th period (2011–2017): The period of political upheaval that began with the 2010–2011 Arab Spring has radically changed the region’s institutional landscape. It has triggered non-linear and ongoing regime-change processes, and has structured the essence of the current refugee crisis. In other words, while some policymakers have claimed that economic migrants make up the majority of those arriving in recent years, it has in fact been the wars in Syria and Iraq, along with continuing violence and instability in Afghanistan and Eritrea, that have driven the crisis.

This new political environment ushered in the beginning of a new and ongoing era of migration. At the beginning of the period, thousands of Tunisians (60,000) and Libyans (26,000) facing political instability at home escaped from their native countries to Europe. The Italian island of Lampedusa became the main point of entry to Europe. The so-called refugee crisis has subsequently shaken the entire region. Between 2011 and 2014, a significant reduction in most North African states’ abilities to exert socioeconomic control acutely affected the dynamics of regional and international migratory flows, enhancing the relevance of the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR), the path initially used by many irregular migrants coming across the Mediterranean Sea from Northern Africa to Italy or Malta.

However, the CMR lost its predominance for irregular-migration and asylum-seeker flows by the end of Operation Mare Nostrum (OMN), a year-long naval and air search-and-rescue operation initiated by the Italian government in October 2013. In 2015, Greece served as the main portal of entry to Europe. For the full year 2015, the EU border agency Frontex (2016b) reported 885,386 detections of irregular migrants on the Eastern Mediterranean Route (EMR), the route heading from Turkey through Greece and the Western Balkans, either by land via Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYR Macedonia) and Serbia or across the Aegean Sea. In contrast, only about 154,000 illegal border-crossing detections were made on the CMR, a slight decrease compared to the previous year (Frontex 2016a). However, even this figure was higher than the 141,051 detections recorded across European Union borders in 2011, the main year of the Arab Spring.

How the global 2015 refugee crisis got so bad: Data, facts and push factors behind the refugee exodus

The 2015 surge of migration into Europe was unprecedented in scope, producing a massive humanitarian crisis and creating a political and moral impasse for European governments. The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix flow-monitoring system counted 1,005,504 irregular arrivals across the Mediterranean in 2015, including migrants journeying by land or sea to Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Malta or Spain, with just 3 percent coming by land. This compared with 280,000 arrivals by land or sea for the whole of 2014. By the end of November 2016, according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 342,774 refugees and migrants had arrived in Europe by sea, including 170,712 to Greece and 167,091 to Italy (UNHCR 2016a).

According to the UNHCR, the top three nationalities among the over 1 million arrivals across the Mediterranean between January 2015 and May 2016 were Syrian (45.5 %), Afghan (20.4 %) and Iraqi (9.2 %). The volume of new arrivals in Greece began a significant decrease in April 2016 due to the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement. Of the refugees and migrants arriving in Europe by sea in 2015, 58 percent were men, 17 percent women and 25 percent children; in 2016, 49 percent were men, 19 percent women and 32 percent children (UNHCR 2015a, 2016a). These numbers confirm that the European Union’s emphasis on the policing and defense of external borders through logistical and surveillance technologies, combined with cooperative security agreements with third countries, has not prevented migrants from entering Europe. Indeed, this policy has had a series of unintended and often counterproductive effects.

First has been an increase in mortality along the Mediterranean migration routes. In 2014, the IOM estimated that 22,400 migrants and asylum-seekers had died since 2000 in attempts to reach the European Union, many of them at sea (IOM 2014). In a more recent update (dated 20 May 2016) on migrant fatalities in the Mediterranean, the IOM (2016) estimated that 1,359 migrants had died or gone missing by June 2016: 976 along the CMR, 376 along the EMR, and five along the Western Mediterranean Route (WMR). Of course, the exact number of fatalities is likely to be higher, as many deaths are not recorded. Additionally, border policing has also stimulated the rise of new smuggling routes, mainly traversed by refugees and asylum-seekers who have no other choice than to flee conflict and war, putting their lives at risk in dangerous crossings.

The 2015 migration crisis has prompted ordinary people, scholars and policymakers to turn their attention to the long and dangerous journeys undertaken by migrants. Not a week goes by without media reports of migrant boats capsizing in the Mediterranean, of thousands of migrants moving by foot across the Balkans or Turkey to reach the European Union, or of people dying in trucks or transport containers. However, one crucial dimension of this crisis has received too little analysis, especially by policymakers: the fact that human rights violations are driving this migration to the European Union. In other words, the push factors behind these flows have been persecution, poverty, ethnic and religious conflict, and war.

According to the UNHCR (2015b), 84 percent of migrants entering Europe in 2015 originated from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iraq, Somalia and Syria – all countries currently experiencing conflict, widespread violence and insecurity, or highly repressive governments. These are thus “migrants on the losing end of the hierarchy of global citizenship” (Brigden and Mainwaring 2016: 244) who cannot access formal migration channels due to restrictive visa policies, and who must therefore undertake dangerous irregular transnational journeys, often with the aid of smugglers, both despite and because of state border-control policies.

Human Rights Watch’s research on human rights conditions in Afghanistan, Eritrea, Somalia and Syria offers a number of insights that are useful for understanding the humanitarian essence of today’s migration flows. According to the UNHCR’s “Syria Regional Refugee Response” information portal (as of 16 August 2016), the Syrian civil war that has raged since 2011 has displaced more than 4 million people. In that country, government forces and pro-government militias continue to carry out intentional and indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas. The government also regularly engages in arbitrary arrest, forcible disappearance and torture. In Iraq and some Syrian regions, Daesh is additionally responsible for systematic and widespread human rights violations, including the targeting of civilians, kidnappings and extrajudicial executions. Growing numbers of refugees have been hosted by neighboring countries (UNHCR 2016c), including Turkey (2,764,500 refugees), Lebanon (1,017,433) and Jordan (655,833), as well as northern Iraq (227,971). However, since 2015, many Syrians have decided to continue on to Europe.

In Afghanistan, a new period of instability began in 2014 and remains ongoing. This has been characterized by political uncertainty and growing pressure from Taliban insurgents, contributing to a decline in the respect accorded to human rights throughout the country (UNHCR 2015b). In the last year, bold Islamist attacks were mounted in several traditionally safe provinces in both the north and the south of the country, leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of civilians.

According to UNHCR (Edwards 2014), Amnesty International (2013), Human Rights Watch (2009) and various scholars (Einashe 2015; Poole 2013; Tronvoll and Mekonnen 2014; Giorgis 2014), a deterioration in human rights and economic conditions in Eritrea has caused the sharp increase in the number of arrivals of that country’s nationals in Europe, especially since 2014. According to UNCHR (2016b), 2014 was a key year marked by “systematic, widespread and gross human rights violations in the areas of extrajudicial executions, torture, national service and forced labor.” The UNHCR estimates that, as of late 2014, more than 357,000 Eritreans – over 5 percent of the population – had fled, including large numbers of children, frequently traveling alone (ibid.).

Often, as in the case of migrants coming from other major sending countries (e. g., Gambia, Mali, Nigeria and Senegal), a desire to live in a safer and more open society is combined with the hope of improving economic opportunities or of escaping conditions of underdevelopment and social inequality. This is almost certainly true for migrants like those coming from Nigeria, a country considered safe by the European Union, where militant groups (e. g., Boko Haram) have sought to fill a power vacuum while committing atrocities against minority groups.

How do migrants get to Europe? Migrant trajectories and aims

While migration is a dynamic phenomenon with often-shifting causes, the routes traversed by migrants before reaching the European Union are identifiable on the basis of findings by EU border agencies and reports offered by migrants themselves.

The year 2014 witnessed an increase in the number of departure points from North Africa to Europe along the CMR. In this context, Italy in particular experienced a dramatic increase in the number of boat arrivals, ascribable to changes in the composition of migrant flows (e. g., the increased presence of Syrians) as well as the unintended pull effects of Operation Mare Nostrum.

Those elements contributed to changes in the dynamics of smuggling along the route. Most significant was a greater focus on the marketing of smuggling services, and efforts to target different groups of migrants with different packages of services. According to migrant witnesses, migrant-smuggler contracts and their ongoing renegotiation during the course of a journey often depend on ethnic and social identities. Thus, the definition of the price of a particular route or segment of the journey varies with the nationality of the migrant paying for it and the level of service the migrant is willing to pay for.

Syrians typically have access to greater economic resources than do sub-Saharans, as well as a relatively larger number of options given their status as refugees. Smugglers thus attract Syrians by offering costlier and “safer” journeys, normally entailing provision of a life jacket and a place on the upper deck of a vessel, for an increased price. By contrast, sub-Saharan migrants are routinely accommodated in the lower decks of smugglers’ vessels, where cases of asphyxiation have repeatedly occurred, and where they are typically the first to drown if the boat founders.

Data from international organizations confirm that, since 2014, migrant communities in Libya have routinely experienced arbitrary arrest, harassment and intimidation, and that sub-Saharan African populations have been disproportionately targeted. Moreover, some embassies were closed during the Libyan crisis in 2014, making it more difficult for migrants from their countries to seek assistance for a journey home. This also hindered regular migration in the form of family reunification, even with private sponsorship, and made it more difficult to obtain alternative forms of admission to third countries.

This left many migrants stranded in Libya and desperate to leave, with many consequently electing to take a ship across the Mediterranean. The majority of migrants trapped in Libya sought to board boats to Europe from the country’s northern coastline or, alternatively, move to Tunisia and return home from there. However, since 2015, the Tunisian government has been reluctant to allow a large inflow of non-Libyan migrants from Libya, as it had done since 2011. In this regard, it sought to close the border between the two countries by imposing administrative requirements that most migrants could not meet (e. g., provision of valid travel documents and proof of onward journey).

In 2015, as the CMR became more difficult, arrivals to Greece via Turkey across the Aegean Sea far outstripped crossings from Libya to Italy, putting Greece and the Western Balkans on the frontline of the migrant crisis. Several factors explain the rise of the EMR, including the significant increase in migratory flows from the Middle East and Asia; the decisions by Greece (2012) and Bulgaria (2014) to construct fences along their borders with Turkey, which diverted most migrants to the Aegean Sea routes; and the lower risk and cost compared to the CMR.

As van Kesteren (2015) observes, understanding the push factors behind the lower number of Syrians opting for the CMR in 2015 also requires a consideration of this population’s changing aspirations and expectations regarding a possible return home. In the first stage of migration, refugees’ decisions to move are typically driven by the push factor of insecurity and the pull factor of proximity to safe neighboring countries. However, beginning in late 2014, deteriorating socioeconomic opportunities in these nearby areas, along with the increasing level of ongoing violence in Syria, led to changing expectations regarding the prospects for safe return. Additionally, the deterioration in living conditions in Libya, the country most commonly used for departures to Italy, also contributed to the general decrease in use of the CMR in favor of the EMR.

Although hardly risk-free, as the daily deaths in the waters between Turkey and Greece show, the EMR is regarded by migrants as the safer of the two routes. However, as witnesses who have taken the land route report, the EMR contains its own perils, including summary expulsions, police abuses and fences that have been progressively erected at border crossings. These factors have created additional burdens for migrants and transit countries, and have led to the opening of secondary routes within the region.

Additionally, the huge influx of migrants has triggered unpredictable reactions by countries whose responses to the crisis have been informed by different national experiences with migration. While western EU members (e. g., France, Germany and Italy) have pursued relatively open migration policies, eastern EU member states have tended toward security-based policies combined with strong enforcement of border controls. An anti-migrant stance has unified the Visegrad group of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia (V4), all of which have rallied in the European Council behind restrictive immigration policies, stricter protection of the EU’s external borders, the retention of existing migration rules, and an emphasis on providing assistance to origin countries rather than relocating migrants within the EU.

In 2015 and 2016, V4 countries took advantage of anti-migrant narratives to implement intolerant national migration agendas, buoyed by the discontent of those convinced that the German- and European Commission-led response to the migration crisis had been ineffective and contrary to European interests. The backlash against migrants saw Hungary amend its asylum legislation to restrict access for refugees, oppose compulsory EU quotas for the relocation of asylum-seekers, erect border fences, and close its borders with both Croatia and Serbia. The closure of the border between Hungary and Croatia affected Slovenia, as well, as more than 150,000 migrants seeking an alternate route crossed that country between mid-October 2015 and mid-2016 (Frontex 2016a, 2016b).

The result has been fences, increased border controls and, ultimately, closed borders throughout the Western Balkan region, in what is seen as the greatest blow to Schengen since its inception. However, this progressive hardening of borders did produce a huge drop in the number of migrants arriving in Germany; just 5,000 arrived in March 2016, compared to 38,570 in February, which was already down sharply from 64,700 in January (for more on this issue, see Dane Taleski’s contribution on the Western Balkan states in this volume).

By June 2016, the daily volume of refugees reaching Germany via some variation of the EMR had fallen to 400, down from 10,000 daily arrivals in October 2015. However, due to the closure of the EMR, the Balkan Route and, to a lesser extent, the WMR following the enhancement of a joint Moroccan-Spanish military monitoring program, the number of forced migrants crossing the CMR to Italy rose slightly, from 154,000 total arrivals in 2015 to 167,091 arrivals by November 2016 alone (UNHCR 2016a).

Additionally, the progressive enforcement of border controls caused a domino effect that left more than 30,000 people trapped in squalid conditions on the Greek side of the Greek-FYR Macedonian border. This led many migrants to apply for asylum in Greece due to the decreased likelihood of an easy onward route through Europe, coupled with the miserable conditions in which they found themselves in Greece.

The EU’s reaction: From the 2015 European Agenda on Migration to the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement

The dramatic journeys of asylum-seekers arriving in the European Union have triggered intense public protest and unprecedented levels of political and media attention. This, in turn, has propelled a number of policy initiatives and contentious negotiations between policymakers, stakeholders, EU member states and third countries. Speaking generally, these proposals tend to have been followed by a series of unsatisfying extraordinary summits and conferences that have delivered inconclusive results regarding EU strategy.

Today, a mix of policy actions has emerged that – beyond the persistent invocation of a “holistic” approach – bears little resemblance to a united strategy, especially given that “the field of migration and asylum policies is one of those in which established patterns of EU-level governance are more vehemently contested by those invoking renationalization, on the one hand, and by proponents of more radical sovereignty transfers and deeper interstate solidarity, on the other” (Pastore and Henry 2016: 45).

With the beginning of the new European Parliament term in 2014, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker assigned a new commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, with special responsibility for migration to work with First Vice President Frans Timmermans on the development of a new migration policy. This was identified as one of the ten priorities that Juncker identified in his 2014 political agenda, titled “A New Start for Europe” (Juncker 2014). Since February 2015, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini has also taken an active role in the migration issue.

Following a deadly 2015 shipwreck on the Mediterranean that claimed more than 800 lives, inter-institutional dialogue between the European Commission and the European External Action Service (EEAS) led to a first special European Council meeting on the refugee crisis on 23 April 2015. On that occasion, EU member states committed to taking rapid action to save lives, and agreed to step up EU action in the field of migration (European Council 2015). On 13 May 2015, the European Commission presented its European Agenda on Migration (European Council 2016), for the first time setting out a new inter- and intra-institutional approach based on strong and “comprehensive” cooperation between the Commission and the EEAS. The document outlined a number of immediate measures aimed at responding to the crisis, including:

•A relocation mechanism for 20,000 refugees from outside the EU, and an extra € 50 million to be allocated to support this scheme in the 2015–2016 period.

•An increase of € 60 million in emergency funding to frontline EU member states, along with the establishment of a new “hotspot approach” in which EU home-affairs agencies, such as Frontex, Europol and the European Asylum Support Office (EASO), would work on the ground to support “frontline” member states in identifying, registering and fingerprinting migrants.

•Strengthening of Europol’s joint maritime-information operation in the Mediterranean, with the aim of curtailing migrant smuggling via CEPOL (European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Training).

•The establishment of a Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) operation in the Mediterranean to dismantle traffickers’ networks and undermine smugglers’ business models. This would focus on identifying, capturing and destroying vessels used by smugglers.

•A tripling of the capacities and assets assigned to Frontex’s Triton and Poseidon joint operations in 2015 and 2016.

On 27 May 2015, the European Commission (2015) unveiled a first package of implementing measures for the Agenda on Migration, including relocation and resettlement proposals and a plan for taking action against migrant smugglers. On June 25 and 26, the European Council agreed to move forward with a focus on relocation and resettlement, repatriation and increased cooperation with countries of origin and transit. On July 20, the Justice and Home Affairs Council configuration of the Council of the European Union (2015) agreed to implement the measures as proposed in the European Agenda on Migration, notably to relocate people in clear need of international protection from their entry points in Greece and Italy. This was slated to take place over the coming two years, starting with a first wave of 32,256 individuals, but also including resettlement of 22,504 displaced persons from outside the EU who were additionally in clear need of international protection.

A partial solution: Relocations and hotspots

The relocation program for the redistribution of asylum-seekers between EU member states has been one of the most controversial ideas proposed by the European Commission. The main contribution of the initiative has been to temporarily derogate the guiding rule under the EU’s so-called Dublin Regulation, according to which the EU member state of first entry is responsible for reviewing an asylum-seeker’s application.

The temporary alternative system introduces a new “distribution key” model for allocating responsibility between member states, based on new criteria that include GDP, population, unemployment rates and other such measures. Based on the Commission’s initiative, member states adopted a resolution on relocating 40,000 persons in clear need of international protection away from Greece and Italy during the Justice and Home Affairs Council on 14 September 2015. This was expanded on 22 September 2015 by an additional Council decision on the temporary relocation of another 120,000 asylum-seekers away from Greece and Italy. EU member states also committed themselves in July 2015 to resettling over 22,000 people from outside Europe.

However, after months of summits, disputes, debates and joint declarations on improving the EU’s migration-management strategy, one figure summed up the EU’s achievement by mid-2016: 1,500. Despite all the promises, that was the number of asylum-seekers who had actually been relocated from the countries of their arrival to elsewhere in the EU by May 2016.

Indeed, in a report from 18 May 2016, the Commission described the progress on relocation as “unsatisfactory.” “The Commission had set a target to relocate at least 20,000 persons by mid-May in its First Report on Relocation and Resettlement,” the report noted. “The reality falls well short of this target” (European Commission 2016a).

Specifically, only 355 persons had been relocated in the previous month, bringing total relocations to 1,500 (909 from Greece and 591 from Italy), the Commission reported. Moreover, only 6,321 of a planned 22,504 people had been resettled, primarily from Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Under the EU-Turkey agreement that went into force on 4 April 2016, a total of 177 people had been resettled from Turkey to the EU (European Commission 2016b).

In other words, the reality was and is that there is no place for these refugees to go. As of May 2016, only eleven member states (Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands and Slovenia) had submitted a total of 1,220 new indications of readiness to relocate applicants needing international protection. EU officials said the relocation process was moving so slowly because many countries were ill-prepared for the sudden flood of migrant arrivals, and were unwilling to invest in the necessary reception and identification capacities in frontline countries, such as Greece and Italy. France, for example, had made just 900 places available for migrants out of the 20,000 they had promised to provide in September 2015, according to figures issued by the Commission. Refugees themselves have also contributed to slowing down the relocation process; humanitarian workers say many migrants know little about how the relocation is supposed to work and, in some cases, are reluctant to be relocated.

Many EU officials and humanitarian workers say migrants’ reluctance is in large part due to poor organization of the so-called hotspots. These facilities, which are associated with the relocation program in Greece and Italy, are tasked with identifying, registering and processing arrivals with the support of Frontex, Europol and EASO experts. As such, they are also responsible for providing information and assistance to asylum applicants, and for preparing the removal of irregular immigrants deemed to have no right to remain.

While there seems to be a consensus that hotspots have delivered greater order and substantially improved registration and fingerprinting rates, the policy framework governing how they operate is rather weak, initially set out in an unofficial “explanatory note” sent by Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to member states’ justice and home affairs ministers on 15 July 2015 (Statewatch 2016). This very feeble governing policy framework creates a number of concerns, as in the case of the deployment of both EASO and Frontex, whose operational activities are separately controlled by the two agencies’ respective regulations. These EU agencies do not directly intervene or take part in national decisions concerning border controls (entry/refusal) in the Schengen area or in assessing asylum applications. This, in turn, limits the extent to which they can actually fill the legal gaps in current national systems.

While the activism of these months in 2015 and 2016 constituted a welcome move toward re-examination of the Dublin Regulation, the limits associated with the relocation program and hotspot institutions suggest that there may be better ways to operationalize EU home affairs agencies, such as EASO and Frontex, in order to support EU member states more effectively as they confront domestic challenges associated with migration. The fact that this approach was still anchored in the Dublin system, and that reception facilities in many countries were woefully scarce, undermined this model as implemented.

The lack of a consistent operational and legal framework raises a number of serious questions regarding the absence of a stand-alone legal instrument managing the hotspots in Greece and Italy, along with the related lack of legal certainty and clarity as to how EU and national rules interact. This presents risks particularly for those who do not qualify for relocation, but nonetheless wish to apply for international protection.

Differences in treatment have been reported from various hotspots. In Greek hotspots, Human Rights Watch (2016) has reported that a “lack of police protection, overpopulation and unsanitary conditions create an atmosphere of chaos and insecurity in Greece’s razor-wire-fenced island camps.” On visits from 9 to 15 May 2016, Human Rights Watch found all three Greek facilities to be severely overcrowded, with significant shortages of basic shelter and filthy, unhygienic conditions. Long lines for poor-quality food, mismanagement and a lack of information contributed to the chaotic and volatile atmosphere, the group noted.

The centers on the islands of Chios and Samos had no isolated sections for single women, family groups or women with children. Women reported frequent sexual harassment in all three hotspots. In Italy, the situation was no better. Humanitarian groups raised questions about Italy’s ability to handle minors, victims of torture and irregular migrants from North African countries. In Sicily’s Pozzallo hotspot reception center, of 142 asylum-seekers housed over one weekend in May 2016, 120 were unaccompanied minors, some as young as ten or twelve years old. According to the rights group, the visit confirmed that hotspots in Pozzallo and elsewhere were being used as detention hubs where minors and victims of torture were being held indefinitely without access to adequate services.

The EU-Turkey agreement and beyond: Externalizing migration control

Over the last two decades, the European Union and its member states have increasingly sought to externalize migration control by signing bi- and multilateral agreements with third countries (Triandafyllidou 2013). “These policies range from less visible control measures such as the requests for visas, to more deterrent measures such as the implementation of air, land and maritime border-control operations, as well as the construction of fences all around the external borders of the EU” (Zaragoza-Cristiani 2016).

In the same vein, the EU is also implementing a strategy of border externalization by transferring some migration-control responsibilities to migrant-origin and transit countries (Sterkx 2008). This was already true in the 2000s, when the EU sought to slow irregular-migrant arrivals in Italy by signing cooperative bilateral arrangements with the Tunisian and Libyan governments (Paoletti and Pastore 2010). It remained so in the EU-Turkey agreement signed on 18 March 2016, according to which all new irregular migrants and asylum-seekers arriving from Turkey to Greece whose applications for asylum had been declared inadmissible would be returned to Turkey. Under the terms of the agreement, the EU agreed to resettle one Syrian from Turkey to an EU member state for every Syrian returned to Turkey from the Greek islands. At the same time, the EU promised to give Ankara a total of € 6 billion in funding for the estimated 2.7 million Syrians then stuck on Turkish soil; conduct NATO- and Frontex-led early-warning and surveillance operations, combined with enhanced sharing of information with the Turkish and Greek coast guards; and provide € 20 million in funding to the Turkish Coast Guard for the procurement of fast-response boats and mobile radar systems (UK Parliament 2016).

The question is whether non-EU countries can genuinely be regarded as partners when it comes to refugee protection. Over time, the enforcement of migration-cooperation agreements between the EU, its member states, and migrant-origin and transit countries has eroded conventional refugee and asylum law. In 2011, for example, the Italy-Libya agreement signed by Silvio Berlusconi and Moammar Gadhafi pursued national goals and paid little evident attention to migrants’ needs or rights. While Italy paid for the construction of detention camps in Libya, the return flights made by irregular migrants from Italy to Libya, and the implementation of joint border patrols in Libyan waters, Libya received investment and infrastructure funds in return (Paoletti 2010). Similarly, the EU-Turkey agreement was presented as the solution to the 2015 crisis. But even if it was followed by a substantial decrease in the numbers of migrants leaving Turkey for Greece, it also left a number of legal and procedural problems unresolved (Carrera and Guild 2016).

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, argued that the EU-Turkey agreement violated EU law and the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, according to which signatories cannot expel asylum-seekers without examining their claims on an individual basis. These criticisms shed light on the nexus between the externalization of migration control and the degree to which migrants are regarded as criminals – indeed, the degree to which migration itself is criminalized – along the various routes to the European Union. Furthermore, the attendant strategies of deportation and detention, as well as the ethnic and racial profiling that necessarily informs them, result in conditions of intense surveillance, detention without cause, and a host of other problematic encounters between law enforcement and immigrants (Provine and Sanchez 2011).

As mid-2016 findings from Greece showed, the problematic policy elements also have a humanitarian element. After the closure of the EMR, more than 40,000 refugees found themselves trapped in filthy conditions in Greece in mid-2016. Here, following the EU-Turkey agreement, Greek authorities automatically detained all asylum-seekers and migrants, transforming the hotspots from identification and registration centers into relocation centers. According to the terms of the agreement, this group of migrants was not to be returned to Turkey, and was in theory to be resettled, with individuals distributed among EU member states. In practice, however, EU members had previously failed to uphold earlier articulations of this sharing process, and appeared likely to do so again, raising the threat of a humanitarian crisis in Greece.

Moreover, contrary to expectations, the closure of the EMR again resulted in the displacement of the routes used by irregular-migrant smugglers toward the CMR. Monitoring during the three months following the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement showed that while just 3,275 new migrants were identified in Greece between May and July 2016, Italy saw 42,296 arrivals (UNHCR 2016a). Additionally, the reopening of the route from Egypt documented in early 2016 confirmed smuggler groups’ extraordinary ability to adapt. In 2015, only a small portion of the roughly 1 million people who arrived in Europe by sea departed from Egypt; more than 80 percent of this population traveled from Turkey to Greece, while most others embarked from Libya to Italy. However, beginning in late 2015, smugglers started bringing African and Middle Eastern refugees and migrants to Europe from the Egyptian coast. As reported in the Italian media (Paci 2016), Italy’s Ministry of the Interior stated that the number of boat landings originating in Libya in the first four months of 2015 and 2016 were almost the same (22,569 and 22,664, respectively); however, the number of landings originating in Egypt jumped almost tenfold in the same period (from 208 to 1,927). To be sure, it appears that this route shift will affect only a fraction of Syrian and Afghan migrants, as the data available as of July 2016 indicated that Syrians were generally displaced in the Mashriq region and Afghans in Turkey and Iran. Geopolitically speaking, absorbing this influx of refugees will continue to be a great challenge for the Middle East region, with strong implications for the stability of the Mediterranean and relations with the European Union.

How Europe can solve a global crisis: Policy recommendations

While the flow of migrants to Europe in 2015 already represents the biggest influx from outside the Continent in modern history, many observers warn that the mass movement may continue and even increase in volume (Schmoll, Thiollet and de Wenden 2015). To date, the EU approach has emphasized policing, defense and an effort to push migrants back into non-EU countries rather than respect for human rights. It has focused predominantly on “securitized” elements, such as cooperation agreements on irregular immigration, external border controls making use of logistical and surveillance technologies, and development cooperation in third countries designed to stop irregular migration. However, given the enduring reality of gross global inequalities and continued economic and political instability in the global South, we hypothesize that this approach will continue to push forced migrants to rely on smugglers, thereby increasing the risk of exploitation, abuse and death.

As we write, at least 700 people from three boats are believed to have drowned in one of the deadliest weeks to date in the Mediterranean. This tragedy took place in the sea between Libya and Sicily, and confirmed that the irregular routes emerging in the wake of restrictive and border-control-focused migration policies worsen the insecurity experienced by migrants and make their journeys longer, more uncertain and more dangerous, especially due to migrants’ dependence on smugglers (Brigden and Mainwaring 2016: 258).

Nevertheless, we believe that the new approaches to externalized migration policy emerging from the Valletta Plan of 2015 and the Migration Partnership Framework established in June 2016 (European Commission 2016b) have the power to lead to different scenarios.

As a best case, if EU member states commit themselves by the end of 2016 to embarking upon a new phase of externalized policy based on political conditionalities toward third countries – for example, by conditioning aid on agreements to strengthen the rule of law and fully protect human rights – incoming migrant flows from states experiencing political upheaval or institutional transition may start to decrease. Similarly, in the case of countries characterized by irregular labor migration, such as those of western and northern Africa, creating regular channels for labor migration to Europe and back to Africa could modify the composition of the mixed migratory flows today transiting along the CMR.

Past evidence has demonstrated that policing efforts seeking to prevent migrants from entering Europe have been largely unsuccessful. As a worst case, the securitized measures described above – particularly Mediterranean operations, such as the military EUNAVFOR MED operation SOPHIA, intended to disrupt smuggling networks in the south-central Mediterranean, or the Frontex-led operation Poseidon – will continue to have a series of unintended effects. Such operations could lead to the systematic rise of alternative pathways seeking to avoid the policing deployed on the most intensely monitored routes.

Indeed, border-control measures seeking to eliminate smuggling are likely to remain ineffective in the absence of concrete efforts to develop and implement transitional solutions that address the complex political crises in Libya and Syria. This has been made increasingly evident following the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement and the parallel closure of the Western Balkans Route, as the Central Mediterranean Route (CMR) has re-emerged as the primary source of irregular entry into Europe. This trend appears likely to persist through the end of 2016 and perhaps beyond.

Politically speaking, the most likely scenario will involve the EU taking a gradual leadership role in shaping what EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice-President of the European Commission Federica Mogherini describes as “a shift in paradigm and attitude” (Mogherini 2016), namely, a new approach to migration policy deriving from joint action led by the European Council and the EEAS vis-à-vis non-EU partner countries. This represents a promising path that has been undermined in the past, particularly by the lack of preparation and shortsightedness of the European Council, a key institution at the mercy of anti-migrant narratives coming from the V4 states and the Brexit-era United Kingdom.

What we know at the time of writing is that the EU system for protecting refugees is broken. However, the European Union, its institutions and its member states can address this refugee crisis by embracing the imperatives of protecting human rights and refugees, and by responding in accordance with the fundamental values at the heart of the Union’s acquis communautaire. To do so, the current asylum system must be reformed at the EU level. The Treaty of Lisbon established a common European policy at this supranational level, even if implementation of these policies still falls to single national authorities according to the principle of subsidiarity.

As stressed by the Italian government in its Migration Compact (Italian Government 2016), and echoed by the New Migration Partnership Framework released by the European Commission in 2016, the measures establishing the common EU asylum system represent no more than “components, even though important ones, of the more comprehensive response needed which so far does not yet directly address the external dimension of our migration policy.” In order to be effective, such internal measures must be complemented by stronger joint external action.

To resolve the current impasse, we think the EU should implement the novel joint policy action launched by EEAS and the European Commission, and immediately begin to work on human rights and state-consolidation initiatives in all migrant-origin countries. This could involve adopting political-conditionality criteria requiring stable institutions, democratic practices, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for human rights in order to receive development aid or significant infrastructure investment. Analogously, policy measures encouraging transit countries to respect humanitarian law should be implemented in cooperation with all European Commission directorates-general involved in humanitarian and development affairs, as well as with EEAS delegations active in the field.

As a means of strengthening humanitarian protections in both the EU and transit countries, we strongly recommend focusing attention not only on securitized strategies meant to prevent or discourage people from attempting to reach EU territory, but also on the development of a set of humanitarian policies designed to mitigate the risks faced by forced migrants fleeing from conflict-torn areas.

In this regard, we first argue that legal-entry schemes in each EU member state should be expanded in order to better respond to persons in need of humanitarian protection. This could involve enhancing resettlement programs and other existing practices; creating humanitarian admission programs and humanitarian visas; or experimenting with humanitarian corridors. For example, a recent pilot project implemented by the Catholic lay association Comunità di Sant’Egidio provided safe passage for refugees from North Africa and the Middle East to Italy, where they were provided legal entry on a humanitarian visa and the opportunity to apply for asylum.

Second, we believe that all EU member states must live up to their declared willingness to promote legal channels for labor migration to Europe. This is particularly important given Europe’s long-term economic and demographic challenges. Today, aging populations, declines in working-age populations and increasing economic dependence on highly skilled labor present serious challenges to welfare systems and social cohesion. In this context, the European Union and its member states must facilitate concrete cooperation between national job agencies in origin and destination countries in order to simplify placements and labor market job matching for low-skilled migrants.

In a similar vein, EU member states must carry out the planned reform of the Blue Card system conceived for highly skilled migrants.

All these actions should be realized within a multidimensional framework that also includes external and development policy, thus promoting legal migration and mobility within bilateral cooperation frameworks, such as the EU’s mobility partnerships. In this scenario, the biggest risk is presented by anti-migrant countries’ potential reluctance to use EU funds to sustain mobility agreements instead of simply striking partnerships with origin and transit countries designed to stop migrants from coming to Europe in the first place.


Amnesty International. Eritrea: 20 Years of Independence But Still No Freedom. London: Amnesty International, 2013.

Brigden, Noelle, and Ċetta Mainwaring. “Beyond the Border: Clandestine Migration Journeys.” Geopolitics 21 (2): 243–262, 2016.

Carrera, Sergio, and Elspeth Guild. “EU-Turkey plan for handling refugees is fraught with legal and procedural challenges.” Paris: CEPS Commentary 10 March 2016.