memorandum by Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger, rapporteur
A sharp increase in the number
of refugees and migrants arriving in Europe across the Mediterranean Sea
over recent years has resulted in an unprecedented migratory and
refugee crisis in Europe. Over 1 million people arrived on European
shores in 2015Note
compared to 219 000 in 2014, 60 000 in 2013 and an estimated 40
000 a year between 1998 and 2012. The implementation of the agreement
between the European Union and Turkey as from March 2016 and the
ensuing decrease in the number of people arriving in Greece, cut
the total number of migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean
to 390 000 in 2016.
2 The explosion in numbers was triggered mainly by the armed
conflicts in Syria and Iraq as well as by instability, human rights
violations and economic misery in countries such as Afghanistan,
Eritrea, Nigeria, Somalia, the Gambia and Sudan. Voyages across
the Mediterranean occur along rapidly changing maritime routes which
respond to external circumstances such as migration control measures
and conditions in the countries of origin, transit and destination.
Passage across the sea is almost entirely controlled by well- organised
criminal networks that wish to maximise profits and have little
respect for human lives.
Perilous journeys across the Mediterranean result in a heavy
death toll. Despite concerted save and rescue operations carried
out by several European countries, over 4 000 people lost their
lives in 2016 as compared to 3 800 people in 2015; 3 500 people
in 2014; 600 people in 2013 and 500 people in 2012. At least 219
people drowned in the first two weeks of this year alone.Note
4 The mass arrivals of refugees and migrants across the Mediterranean
Sea put the receiving countries under extreme pressure. It quickly
became clear that the material reception capacities of the first
countries of arrival could not meet human rights standards and the
asylum systems revealed structural deficiencies concerning processing
of large numbers of applications. Partly as a result of these shortcomings
but also due to unco-ordinated border openings and even facilitating
transport as well as other factors including migrants’ preferences,
family ties and, last but not least, smuggling patterns, flows of
refugees spread across Europe, affecting transit and destination
5 Europe’s chaotic response to these developments immediately
revealed the inadequacy and irrelevance of existing legal instruments
and migration policies. It was particularly flagrant in the case
of the Dublin Regulation which is a European Union legal instrument
providing a mechanism to identify the member State responsible for
examining a particular asylum application, established in 2003 when
migration and refugee flows were of a different qualitative and
quantitative nature. As a result, mass flows of migrants were able
to choose the country in which they would finally apply for asylum,
a scenario that the Dublin Regulation was specifically designed
to prevent. What is more, asylum seekers can apply in several countries
while potentially abusing the local social welfare systems.
6 This is made possible because of another EU legal instrument,
the Schengen Agreement, which is at the heart of EU single market
policies and allows for free movement of people between the countries
which have to a large extent abolished their internal border checks.
In consequence, people who have entered Europe in an irregular way
and have never been identified, let alone registered, can move freely
within the whole Schengen Area.
7 The failure of the common European policy confronted with
mass irregular arrivals has been accentuated by individual national
approaches ranging from most restrictive to most generous and often contradicting
each other. Several countries have closed their borders even for
transit purposes, in some cases going so far as to erect fences.
This created unprecedented tensions including violence at the borders.
Others have been more flexible and allowed for transit to the point
of inviting in refugees and applying a formal suspension of the
8 The ensuing debates at the EU level on responsibility sharing
and repartition on the basis of voluntary or compulsory quotas have
clearly demonstrated the inability of EU leaders to address the
problem of migration which has resulted in extensive loss of public
trust in governments and EU institutions. Tensions in certain countries
play into the hands of extremists who, in turn, fiercely oppose
migration or even encourage violence against migrants.
9 The question of integration of all newly arrived migrants
remains a matter of concern in the light of past unsuccessful efforts
in this respect. Worrying reports about the lack of respect for
democratic values and attempts to import lifestyles and values contrary
to European values by newcomers must be taken seriously. Likewise,
reports on protests of radicalisation amongst refugees and migrants
cannot be ignored.
10 Some recent terrorist attacks committed by asylum seekers
in European countries (for example Germany and Turkey) have shed
new light on security failures and raised legitimate questions about
the management of migration flows, and more broadly speaking, migration
policies. The need for an adaptive European response to these new
challenges created by the ongoing refugee and migration crisis has
11 The majority of these interlinked issues have been dealt with
by the Parliamentary Assembly at different stages of the unfolding
crisis. There is no need to quote here the full list of relevant
reports prepared by the Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced
Persons; they are easily consultable on the website of the Assembly.
I will refer to some of them within the text when appropriate. I
also draw your attention to the work of the Committee on Political
Affairs and Democracy with regard to terrorism.
12 The present report, prepared under urgent procedure, results
from the highest concern about the lack of open dialogue at the
European parliamentary level on the risks ensuing from the ongoing
migration and refugee crisis, as well as inadequate migration policies.
By means of the present report, I hope to launch a debate on immediate
responses to threats to security and our democratic values, but
also to launch a reflection on the long-term consequences of mass
migration. Europe needs a comprehensive approach to the issue of
mass migration and a far-reaching vision for our future societies.
The Migration Day in the Parliamentary Assembly planned for June
2017 will constitute a good opportunity for such a debate.
2 Deficiencies of the current
migratory policies and the main concerns resulting from mass migratory movements
For several years before 2011,
Italy and Greece were criticised for fighting irregular migration
at their borders by practicing push backs. Intercepted boats would
be directed to the points of departure and their passengers would
have no chance to submit an application for asylum. This practice
is called refoulement
a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights (ETS No.
5) as decided by the European Court of Human Rights in its judgment
condemning Italy in 2011.Note
The Court’s decision paved the way for the establishment of
a new practice of bringing intercepted irregular migrants to European
shores; be it Italy, Malta, Cyprus or Greece. Smugglers quickly
learnt to take advantage of this practice: as soon as the smuggled
migrants and refugees have left the 12 nautical miles of territorial
waters and reached international waters, they would send a distress
signal or call the Italian coast guards using mobile phones and
would have a good chance of being transferred onto Italian territory.Note
also been reported cases of signals being sent out before the boat
had left the Libyan coast.Note
15 Unfortunately, not all passengers are lucky enough to be rescued
in time from the unseaworthy vessels which are dangerously overloaded
and often set sail in bad weather conditions. The number of tragic shipwrecks
taking the lives of many people illustrates the risks undertaken
by those who set off. It has to be clearly stressed that there is
no way to totally eliminate risk. As long as people attempt to irregularly
cross the Mediterranean, a loss of lives is inevitable.
There has been some progress in combating criminal networks
smuggling migrants across the Mediterranean over the last two years,Note
but the situation
is far from being satisfactory in terms of legal shortcomings inhibiting
prosecution as well as investigative methods. Efforts to combat
the smuggling of migrants should address the root causes of migration
that drive them into the hands of the smugglers: once there are
no more migrants irregularly crossing the sea, the criminal networks
of smugglers will disperse.
17 While the implementation, since March 2016, of the EU–Turkey
Agreement has significantly decreased the number of people arriving
in Greece (from over 800 000 in 2015 to 175 000 in 2016), the so-called
“central Mediterranean route” between Libya and Italy has become
the main passage of migration. In 2016, as many as 181 000 people
arrived in Italy across the sea as compared to 150 000 in 2015.
We should be concerned to note that there are reported to be approximately
300 000 people waiting at the Libyan coast to obtain passage to
Europe. Some of them have traversed the Sahara desert before arriving
at the point of departure. Deplorably, the Sahara and the Libyan
Desert are the scenes of tragedies comparable to those in the Mediterranean
but gather little interest from the authorities or public opinion.
18 The introduction of measures to control borders and combat
irregular migration is a legitimate prerogative of national States
and of the European Union. With no prejudice to the right of asylum,
the measures are designed to allow effective management of migratory
flows and are also a necessary condition for ensuring security.
Proper identification and registration of arriving people is an
important element of security policies.
19 Until recently, the lack of identification remained a serious
cause for concern. The fact that many people have entered Europe
without the European authorities having any record of their presence
or information about their identity remains a serious security concern.
20 The Dublin Regulation’s requirements are clear in this respect
and stipulate, in Article 8, that each “Member State shall, in accordance
with safeguards laid down in the European Convention on Human Rights and
in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, promptly take the
finger prints of all fingers of every alien of at least fourteen
years of age who is apprehended by the competent control authorities
in connection with the irregular crossing by land, sea or air of
the border of that Member State having come from a third country and
who is not returned back”. The Regulation then requires that the
“Member State concerned shall promptly transmit to the central unit
… data relating to any alien including the place and date of apprehension,
finger print data and the date on which the data were transmitted
to the central unit”.
On this point Italy had been repeatedly criticised by other
European countries as it has systematically failed to comply with
the European legislation. Until the establishment of hot spots in
late 2016, those migrants and refugees arriving on Italian costs
who did not wish to co-operate, were not forced to do so. Consequently, approximately
2% of them were not properly identified.Note
Once transferred to a reception centre,
they could disappear without any record of their identity having
been obtained. However, there are still over 150 000 refugees remaining
in Italy, and only 1 950 have been relocated.
The refusal to co-operate may be explained by the fear that
fingerprinting would jeopardise their chances of submitting an application
for asylum in another country. However, this leniency of the authorities
might have allowed potentially bad-intentioned people to mix with
the migrants and pass unnoticed. The threats to the European host
countries of these irregular migration channels have been intensified
by the public declarations of the leaders of the terrorist organisation
called Isis announcing their intention to smuggle their own people along
with the flows of refugees, and who are tasked with committing terrorist
attacks in Europe.Note
In Greece, before the implementation of the EU–Turkey Agreement
and establishment of hotspots in 2016, the identification and registration
of new arrivals was very unsatisfactory due to the authorities being overwhelmed
by the sheer numbers; the estimated rate of new arrivals in mid-September
2015 was between 5 000 and 8 000 persons a day. Following the implementation
of the EU–Turkey Agreement and the establishment of hot spots, the
situation has much improved in this respect. Unfortunately, the
European Union has until now failed to provide adequate support
to Greece or ensure that responsibility is shared equitably among
its member States. Only a little over 6 000 people have been relocated
a result, over 14 000 people are still confined to the islands,
a further 14 000 are accommodated in the EU-funded flat scheme and
over 33 000 remain in sub-standard reception conditions on mainland
Greece. In total, there are over 63 000 people of concern in Greece.
24 Apart from being a direct threat for security, the lack of
proper identification and registration upon arrival to some extent
might have compromised the status determination procedure itself.
The laissez-faire policy encouraged the abuse of the asylum system,
was a pull up factor for those who did not qualify for status and discredited
the concept of international protection in the public opinion.
25 This issue touches upon another question which is often raised
with regard to the ongoing migration and refugee crisis: that of
the distinction between refugees and people in need of international
protection and economic migrants who are simply seeking a better
life and do not qualify under any kind of humanitarian status.
26 Lengthy and cumbersome status determination procedures, dysfunctional
asylum systems and legislative deficiencies as well as non-compliance
with EU legislation by some countries do not prevent abuses, but
encourage some economic migrants to take advantage of these shortcomings.
27 The crucial question of the criteria which would qualify people
for refugee status and the notion of a safe third country calls
for a deeper reflection and debate at the European level. I hope
that this report will launch further discussions.
28 Another important issue relates to the return of rejected
applicants, or migrants who have not applied for asylum. Few of
them wish to go back to their country on a voluntary basis. This
is a matter of concern that suggests that forced return policies
throughout Europe are entirely inefficient. According to Eurostat,
every year between 400 000 and 500 000 foreign nationals are ordered
to leave the European Union. However, less than 40% of them are
sent back to their home country or to the third safe country from
which they travelled to the European Union. There are several reasons
for this: the lack of readmission agreements with some countries of
origin, long processing times, no effective surveillance of rejected
applicants and high costs involved. In practice, it is not difficult
for a rebuked asylum seeker or irregular migrant to avoid deportation.
29 A lack of co-ordination between States and of a common approach
between European leaders, as well as no comprehensive vision for
the future seems to be the biggest obstacle to dealing with the
ongoing migration and refugee crisis. Contradictory national migration
policies, discussions on quotas and their voluntary or obligatory
nature seem to overlook the core issue: the crisis will not end
even if all undertakings on the repartition of refugees are implemented.
The next wave of migrants, both refugees and economic migrants,
are continuously waiting to embark; deplorably, there will certainly
be more loss of lives, and the challenges will remain the same if
3 Security and integration
concerns resulting from mass migratory movements
30 The December truck attack on
a crowded Berlin market that killed 12 people and injured nearly
50 others shed new light on security safeguards with regard to mass
migratory movements. The perpetrator turned out to be a Tunisian
national, a failed asylum seeker who had applied for asylum in six
different countries under six different names and who had 14 known
aliases. Moreover, he had spent four years in an Italian prison
for violence and arson, and subsequently he was arrested in Germany
while carrying false documents. For the last six months he was under
German surveillance and was known as a radicalised person awaiting
deportation which was delayed due to some bureaucratic problems
with the Tunisian authorities. Due to lack of speedy and effective
co-operation between police forces he managed to cross several State
borders before being apprehended in Italy.
31 The terrorist attack in Berlin followed a disturbing pattern
of attacks which require little organisational manpower or technological
know-how. It was another worrying example of an Islamic operative
who was able to conceal his ties with the terrorist organisation.
The fact that he had arrived in Europe as an asylum seeker led to
a negative impact on the public perception of irregular migrants.
32 Regrettably, the Berlin perpetrator is not the only example
of an asylum seeker being radicalised. In July 2016, a failed asylum
seeker blew himself up outside a wine bar near a music festival
in the German town of Ansbach. The explosion injured 12 people.
33 Earlier the same week, a 17-year-old Afghan refugee seriously
injured five people with a knife and hatchet on a train in Germany
before police shot him dead. In his room, a hand printed ISIS flag
was found. The attacker had come to Germany as an unaccompanied
minor two years earlier.
34 Some of the perpetrators of three co-ordinated suicide bombings
which occurred in Belgium (two at Brussels airport and one at Maalbeek
metro station) arrived in Europe as refugees through Greece.
35 An Uzbek jihadist killed 39 people and injured at least 70
others in a terrorist attack at a night club in Istanbul on 1 January
2017. He crossed the Syrian–Turkish border with his wife and two
children along with refugees. ISIL officially claimed responsibility
and declared that the attacker was its soldier. The experts who examined
the footage of the attack claimed that the gunman was professionally
trained in the use of weapons. Turkish police believed the attack
was carried out by the same ISIL soldier that targeted Atatürk Airport
in June 2016.
36 The few attacks committed by these irregular migrants, who
constitute a minimal percentage of those who have arrived in Europe,
are sometimes perceived in conjunction with the big wave of international
terrorism for which responsibility is claimed by ISIS, and used
by radical parties as an argument against irregular migrants in
general or migrants of Muslim confession in particular. This is
sadly paradoxical, as the vast majority of irregular migrants are
themselves victims of international terrorism, and of ISIS in particular.
There is, however, a growing concern about possible radicalisation
of migrants and refugees as a consequence of failed integration.Note
It has to be stressed that
the majority of terrorist attacks in Europe have been carried out
by migrants’ descendants of second or third generation, born and
raised in Europe, and fully fledged citizens of the host countries.
A worrying number of people of migrant origin travel to Syria from different
Concerns about security have also mounted after men of North
African and Arab appearance assaulted women in Cologne, Hamburg
and other European cities on the night of 31 December – 1 January
2016. The simultaneous occurrence of these mob assaults in several
cities, their scale, the slow response of the authorities as well
as delays in the release of information were most worrying.Note
39 Questionable social and religious attitudes are held among
some migrants, including those settled in Europe for a long time.
There are areas where predominating social and cultural norms are
inherently incompatible with the way that the host communities view
the functioning of society. It is illustrated by closed communities
of “old migrants”, including second and third generations, their
detachment from host societies, so-called no-go areas with imposed
laws, different cultural lifestyles, hardening religious attitudes
and, in some cases, lack of readiness to adopt and respect democratic
values of the European host societies.
Some of these issues, which include polygamy, forced marriages,
marriages with minors, mutilations or honour crimes, are simply
contrary to our law. What is even more dangerous is that some democratic
values are openly contested or ignored: religious extremism and
terrorism are on the rise.Note
41 Probably most European countries have witnessed an increase
in anti-migrant attitudes. The experience of the largely failed
integration of numerous previous migrants should be taken into account
when shaping future migration policies. This cannot be ignored when
trying to identify solutions and remedies for the ongoing migration
and refugee crisis.
4 Possible ways to improve
42 It has to be acknowledged that
there is a collective European failure in dealing with the current
migration and refugee crisis. Migration policies should be entirely
reviewed on the basis of past experience with regard to failed integration
of migrants and taking into account threats to the integrity of
43 European border controls should be effective in order to ensure
more appropriate protection systems in Europe. The re-introduction
of systematic security checks at external borders with a relevant
data base and establishment of a new European Border and Coast Guard
Agency (EBCG) with more powers as compared to the European Agency
for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders
of the Member States of the European Union (Frontex), whose mission
had obviously proved to have failed, as proposed by the European
Commission in its Package of proposals aimed at securing Europe’s
external borders and validated by the European Parliament last June,
is a badly needed first step towards the better handling of the migration
and refugee crisis.
44 The new EBCG agency has a “rapid reaction pool” of 1 500 border
guards who will be nominated by member States. It has been mandated
with a monitoring and supervisory role to monitor migratory flows towards
and within the European Union and to carry out risk analysis and
mandatory vulnerability assessments to identify and address weak
spots. The Agency will be able to require member States to take
measures to address the situation within a set time-limit in case
of vulnerabilities. It will also have the right to intervene by deploying
a “rapid reaction pool” to ensure that action is taken on the ground
even if a member State is unable or unwilling to take the necessary
45 The controls will be significantly improved through the use
of new technologies, including verification of biometric identifiers
in the passports of EU citizens in case of doubts about the authenticity
of the passport or the legitimacy of the holder.
46 The agency will also take a leading role in returning rejected
asylum seekers or irregular migrants to their country of origin.
A European Return Office will be established within the Agency,
to allow for the deployment of European Return Intervention Teams
composed of escorts, monitors and return specialists who will work
to effectively return illegally staying third country nationals.
A standard European travel document will ensure a wider acceptance
of returnees to their countries. These measures will hopefully provide
for efficient mechanisms for the immediate return of those who do
not qualify for international protection. However, costs of deportation
should also be a subject of shared responsibility.
47 It is too early to assess the effectiveness of these measures
as the regulation only entered in force last October; the question
of implementation remains crucial for their success.
48 I also believe that the European Union should explore possible
ways for closer co-operation including exchange of information and
collection of data with other Council of Europe member States. Sharing
of expertise and training could also be envisaged.
49 An effective management of the European Union’s external borders
is fundamental for the good functioning of free movement within
the European Economic Area. This is a matter of utmost urgency.
50 Furthermore, we should strengthen the existing legal and policy
framework in all member States of the Council of Europe with a view
to ensuring greater efficiency of the status determination procedure.
The dialogue on the interpretation of legal provisions of the 1951
Geneva Convention on refugees, including the criteria for qualifying
for status, should be launched. The issue of a definition of safe
third country is of crucial importance too.
51 In May 2015, the European Union established a mechanism called
hotspots aimed at helping in the processing of asylum requests and
returning of irregular migrants. As part of hotspot teams rolled
out in Italy and Greece, experts from Europol, EASO and Frontex
deploy on the ground facilities for registering, fingerprinting
and interviewing the migrants to ensure that all asylum requests
are genuine. Unfortunately, until now, the support in terms of number
of experts deployed is insufficient and there are big delays in
processing the applications.
52 However, hotspots in Italy and Greece cannot be considered
as solutions in themselves to the massive migration crisis. At best
they can help to manage an out-of-control situation. They do not
address the issue of tragic deaths during the passage across the
Mediterranean. European leaders should seriously consider the establishment
of hotspots outside of Europe in order to identify people needing
international protection before they undertake dangerous sea journeys.
I hope that serious dialogue on this question will engage all European leaders.
The Assembly has expressed on several occasions its support
for the idea of identifying people in need of international protection
and organising external processing of asylum applications by specialised
agencies and European experts through hotspots set up outside Europe
provided that the human rights of refugees and migrants are guaranteed.Note
To avoid displaced persons in need of international protection
having to resort to criminal networks of smugglers and traffickers
and risk their lives making perilous journey to points of departure
and then crossing the Mediterranean, resettlement programmes should
be put in place in the countries where hotspots would be established.
They would provide for legal and safe pathways to enter the European
Union for those who are eligible for international protection along
the lines of a European Resettlement Scheme adopted by the European
Council in July 2015 and operating under the EU–Turkey Agreement.Note
55 Regrettably, nothing has been done in this direction since
then. This idea certainly deserves serious attention and I hope
that the Assembly will be instrumental in launching the debate on
this subject. To this end it is essential to engage in a meaningful
dialogue with the African countries of transit in order to jointly
manage migration flows.
56 This would include encouraging initiatives to support institutional
and normative capacity building of third countries. EASO should
co-operate with third countries to reinforce asylum and reception
capacities as well as regional protection programmes. EU funding
is also made available by the new Asylum and Migration Fund (2014-2020)
for more resettlement and humanitarian admission places.
57 Development of co-operation between Europe and countries of
transit should include not only financial support but also economic
projects which will contribute to sustainable development.
58 Tackling the root causes of the Mediterranean crisis is a
crucial long-term measure for resolving the ongoing crisis. The
settlement of hostilities in Syria, Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan
is a necessary condition to ending the human exodus from and transiting
through these countries.
At the same time, a number of measures aimed at increasing
safeguards for security and preventing radicalisation should be
introduced. The Assembly has already taken position in this respect
and I refer to Resolution 2113
(2016) “After the Brussels attacks, an urgent need to
address security failures and step up counter-terrorism co-operation”
and Resolution 2090
(2016) “Combating international terrorism while protecting
Council of Europe standards and values”.
60 The Council of Europe Development Bank, which has in its mandate
the provision of financing and technical expertise for social projects
including those responding to emergency situations, should be more instrumental
and increase its efforts in the European countries to address challenges
relating to the reception of large numbers of refugees. One of the
three sectoral lines of its action plan is the integration of refugees, displaced
persons and migrants.
61 The most important factor remains political will for co-ordinated
common action including the drawing up of a consistent approach
based on a long-term vision and consequent implementation of reformed
migration policies. I sincerely hope that the present report and
debate will contribute to further debate and action in this respect.