The EU's response to the migration crisis: recent developments

Published Friday, December 11, 2015

This note provides a brief update on recent developments in the EU's response to the migration crisis, including the EU's military operation against people smuggling in the Mediterranean. Documents related to the EU's response to the migration crisis are due to be debated in the House on 14 December.

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EU response

On 13 May the European Commission published a ‘European Agenda on Migration’. At an informal meeting on 23 September, they endorsed a list of priority actions to implement the Agenda on Migration over the next six months. The actions encompassed operational, budgetary, legal and legislative measures.

Some of the key measures being taken in response to the immediate pressures being faced by Member States include:

  • Establishing “hotspots” in frontline Member States to ensure effective reception and registration processes
  • Plans to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers likely to be in need of international protection, away from frontline countries to other Member States, over the next two years
  • Offering resettlement to 20,000 refugees currently outside the EU, over the next two years, in individual Member States

A separate Library briefing, Migration pressures in Europe, has further background information.

Some progress has been made over the past three months, although the commitments made by Member States so far have not fully covered the identified needs. Relatively few refugees have been relocated or resettled so far. The UK supports the hotspots approach, but is not participating in the relocation proposals.

EU leaders continue to hold regular meetings on the migration crisis, including with third countries. November’s Valletta Summit on migration between EU heads of state/government and African leaders resulted in a political statement and agreement to implement an Action Plan on migration. EU leaders have also recently agreed to a Joint Action Plan on Migration with Turkey.

The second, active phase of the EU’s military operation against people smuggling in the Mediterranean, Operation Sophia (previously EUNAVFOR MED), began on 7 October.

The UK offered to deploy the Type-23 frigate HMS Richmond to the EU naval force, together with its organic Lynx helicopter, a Royal Marines boarding party and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle for enhanced surveillance.

As at 10 November, the UK government said that the operation had “disposed of around 40 migrant boats“and had identified 42 suspected smugglers for the Italian authorities to pursue further investigations.

There will be a third stage to the operation, the disruption phase, involving disposal of vessels and related assets, preferably before use, and apprehending traffickers and smugglers.

Parliamentary scrutiny

The European Scrutiny Committee has identified various documents relating to the EU’s response to the migration crisis (including Operation Sophia) as politically important, and recommended them for debates on the floor of the House. Two related motions have been tabled for debate on Monday 14th December.

Commons Briefing papers CBP-7430

Authors: Melanie Gower; Ben Smith

Topics: Asylum, Immigration, Military operations

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