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EC: measures in field of immigration and asylum

Commission adopts major package of measures in the field of immigration and asylum

The measures adopted today comprise the proposal for a Directive on common standards on return and three Communications, on Integration, on Regional Protection Programmes and on Migration and Development. This is an important step towards the realisation of the objectives announced in the Hague Action Plan adopted by the Council in June and the achievement of a balanced approach in the migration and asylum field.

Vice- President Franco Frattini, responsible for Freedom, Security and Justice, noted that the package adopted today comprises of measures constituting the two sides of the same coin: coherent, fair and efficient European asylum and immigration policies. On the one hand, the Vice-President commented “it gives the clear message that people staying illegally in the EU should return to their country of origin- indeed if we don’t ensure a human, dignified but efficient return of illegal migrants this will undermine the integrity and credibility of our immigration and asylum policies.”; “On the other hand, Vice- President Frattini continued, “we propose measures at both national and EU level which aim at a vigorous integration of legal migrants, of those who are allowed to remain, in our societies- measures which very strongly take into account the local and urban level where integration actually takes place”

In addition, however, the Vice President stressed that “we need to complement this action on return by a renewed emphasis on the external dimension of our policies and the impact they have on the development and protection capacities of third countries.”

Vice-President Frattini also recalled the importance for common immigration and asylum policies of the proposals recently adopted for a Regulation on migration and asylum statistics. The Vice President commented: “Sound policies must be based on reliable data. Our knowledge of the migratory situation in the European Union is currently fragmented and incomplete. The collection of EU-wide statistics in this area will significantly improve our ability to concentrate our efforts where they are most needed.”

The adoption of the “Researcher package”, expected later this month, will further develop EU migration policy by introducing measures to facilitate entry into the EU and residence for skilled researchers. The Policy Plan on Legal Migration, a more comprehensive document on legal migration which the Commission intends to adopt before the end of 2005, will constitute an important further step towards achieving the balanced approach.

Clear and transparent rules for return

The proposal for a Directive on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals provides for clear and transparent common rules concerning return, removal, use of coercive measures, temporary custody and re-entry, which take fully into account the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms of the persons concerned.

The proposal aims to establish a horizontal set of rules, applicable to any illegally staying third-country national, and provides for a two-step procedure, leading to the ending of illegal stay. A return decision must be issued to any third-country national staying illegally. Priority must be given to voluntary return. Only if the third-country national concerned does not return voluntarily, shall Member States enforce the obligation to return by means of a removal order. The Proposal gives a European dimension to the effects of national return measures by establishing a re-entry ban valid throughout the EU.

A common agenda for integration

The Communication on ‘A Common Agenda for Integration: Framework for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals in the European Union’ is a first response from the Commission to the request in The Hague Programme to establish a coherent European framework for integration. Following the adoption of Common Basic Principles on integration (CBPs) by the Justice and Home Affairs Council of 19 November 2004, the cornerstones of today’s Communication are proposals for concrete measures to put the CBPs into practice, together with a series of supportive EU mechanisms.

In order to strengthen the implementation of the CBPs, actions meant to provide guidance for EU and Member States’ integration policies are suggested. The Communication also stresses the importance of further clarifying the rights and responsibilities of migrants within the EU, developing specific co-operation activities and exchange of information on integration, mainstreaming and evaluation.

Strengthening the external dimension of EU migration and asylum policy

The two Communications on Migration and Development and Regional Protection Programmes respond to the Hague Programme’s call to strengthen the external dimension of migration and asylum policies.

In the Communication on Migration and Development the Commission aims, in a spirit of partnership with countries of origin, to link migration and development cooperation with a view to contributing to poverty alleviation in these countries. The Communication puts forward a set of policy orientations that will help maximise the benefits of migration for the development of migrants’ countries of origin. Migrants and diaspora members can make an important contribution to their countries of origin through remittances and their skills and expertise – whether by returning permanently, investing or by sharing their expertise with their compatriots back home. The communication proposes concrete orientations for enhancing this contribution. At the same time, it also looks at how to limit the negative effects of brain drain, i.e. the exodus of skilled professionals from the developing world. With this document, the Commission is providing very concrete input into a debate of increasing global importance and in particular to the High Level dialogue on Migration and Development that will take place next year in the framework of the United Nations General Assembly.

While the numbers of asylum applications in Europe have steadily fallen in recent years, this has not meant a reduction of the numbers of refugees at a global level. It is a fact that the vast majority of refugees remain in their regions of origin in circumstances of extreme poverty and questionable safety. It is therefore important to ensure that those who need protection are able to access it as quickly as possible and as closely as possible to their needs. In a spirit of co-ownership and co-responsibility, Regional Protection Programmes aim to assist third countries who host large refugee communities or are faced with large numbers of asylum applicants in building their protection capacity. The first pilot Regional Protection Programme will be implemented in the Western New Independent States (Western NIS), that is to say Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus. This Programme will focus on strengthening already existing protection capacity, notably by giving practical support to the examination of asylum applications, the reinforcement of subsidiary protection, integration and documentation. The location of the second pilot Programme is being considered with potential areas including both the Great Lakes Region (e.g. Tanzania) and the Horn of Africa.

It should also be recalled that last July the Commission adopted the first annual monitoring and evaluation mechanism report identifying the level of cooperation of third countries in the fight against illegal immigration. The report was presented to the Council of the EU with a view to evaluating and improving cooperation on illegal immigration in partnership with the relevant third countries.

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