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European and African perspectives on asylum and migration policy. Seeking common ground

Olivia Sundberg Diez , Matthias Lücke , Leonie Jegen , Franzisca Zanker

Date: 22/04/2020
2020 MEDAM Assessment Report on asylum and migration policies in Europe

 If the EU and its member states are to manage migration successfully, they need to start treating countries of origin and transit, especially in Africa, as equal partners. The Union must make a conscious effort to negotiate comprehensive agreements on mobility that reflect both sides’ interests, concerns, and political realities.

The European Commission is currently finalising its proposed New Pact on Migration and Asylum to re-start the debate on how to reform the Common European Asylum System and manage migration from outside the EU. One prominent aspect is the ‘external dimension’: jointly managing migration with countries of origin and transit. In this 2020 MEDAM Assessment Report, the authors explore how European and African governments can reach common ground on policies related to migration and mobility.  

The main recommendations are to:  

  • Be wary of imposing migration-related conditionality on low- and middle-income countries. The EU in recent years has shown a tendency to apply such conditionality ‘punitively’. For example, the new Visa Code allows for visas to be restricted to countries that do not cooperate sufficiently on readmission. This is unlikely to encourage cooperation from third countries, and may harm long-term relations.
  • Reconsider allowing return and readmission to dominate bilateral relations with countries of origin, at the expense of other objectives such as development and international mobility. Member states want to increase the number of migrants returning home, but the factors limiting returns are complex and manifold.
  • Recognise the impact of the loss of financial remittances for citizens and governments in countries of origin. Research in West Africa shows that citizens consider migration a critical element in promoting development and securing livelihoods.
  • Offer more opportunities for legal (labour) migration to Europe, to complement any efforts on joint migration management. Having more credible and accessible legal pathways would benefit African workers and their families, sustain financial remittances to African economies, and render restrictions on irregular migration politically feasible.
  • Assume more responsibility for protecting refugees who use irregular migration routes to seek safety in Europe. Valuable mechanisms such as the UNHCR’s Emergency Transit Mechanism will be effective and sustainable only if there are enough places for resettlement in the EU or elsewhere. 
Getting the internal dimension of the New Pact on Migration right is equally important. The Pact will likely propose a combination of mandatory flexible solidarity and accelerated border procedures. If the Commission chooses this way forward, difficult implementation issues will need to be carefully addressed, such as how to avoid unsustainable large-scale detention at the external border and how to secure sufficient, reliable, long-term solidarity.

Matthias Lücke - Senior researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy

Olivia Sundberg Diez - Policy analyst for the European Migration and Diversity Programme at the European Policy Centre (EPC)

Leonie Jegen - Researcher on the impacts of migration policy in Niger and Senegal as part of the MEDAM project “The Political Economy of West African Migration Governance” (WAMiG)

Franzisca Zanker - Senior researcher and head of the research cluster “Patterns of (Forced) Migration” at the Arnold Bergstraesser Institute (ABI)

The European Policy Centre (EPC) is one of three research institutes working on this three-year project, alongside the Kiel Institute for the World Economy and the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute in Florence. For more information on the MEDAM (Mercator Dialogue on Migration and Asylum) project, funded by Stiftung Mercator, see the website.

Read the full report here
Photo credits:
Timon Studler on Unsplash

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