A New Pact on Migration and Asylum - Related Opinions
In 2021, the Belarusian regime led by Alyaksandr Lukashenka actively attracted migrants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and other countries, encouraging and even forcing them to cross the UE borders. This resulted in a particular pressure on Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, and was done in retaliation against the sanctions adopted by the EU in response to the regime rigging the national elections in 2020 and violently repressing civil society in 2021.
The EESC welcomes the renewed EU action plan and the comprehensive approach it proposes. It considers it essential to combat migrant smuggling by means of a "whole-of-route" approach, including by improving judicial and police cooperation and cooperation and dialogue with neighbouring countries in the fight against smuggling networks. Safeguarding external borders is a priority for the European Union, but these must always be protected with respect for human rights and the inviolability of public international law. The EESC points out that protecting people and providing medical care and solidarity aid should not be criminalised and treated in the same way as smuggling networks.
The EESC underlines that the shortcomings of the Directive relate to its actual transposition and implementation by the Member States, in particular the considerable variability in sanctions, which in most cases means they do not do much to dissuade employers from hiring illegally staying third‑country nationals. The EESC calls on Member States to step up their efforts to implement the Directive and to work actively with the Commission to ensure it is effective. As regards sanctions, the EESC fully supports the Commission's commitments and recommendations to the Member States and puts forward many additional recommendations on how to make the sanctions effective.
This opinion will focus on three of the nine instruments contained in the New Pact on Migration and Asylum released by the European Commission in November 2020. The opinion deals with: i) the new screening regulation; ii) the amended proposal revising the asylum procedures regulation; iii) the amended proposal for a recast Eurodac regulation.
The EESC describes integration as a dynamic process, involving both migrants and the receiving society. It believes that migration challenges should be addressed in a holistic manner. Gender equality should become one of the key pillars in integration. Migrant families and parents should be involved in the local and school community as from the early stages of reception. On language training, the EESC believes that this should foresee cultural exploration and involvement in the community and society, as well as guidance and information to migrants on the advantages and the aims of language training. In view of the disparities that exist in Member States with regard to language teaching, the EESC calls for common EU guidelines for language training, which can help ensure a unified and holistic approach.
In this own-initiative opinion, the EESC calls on the European Union to develop a coherent and uniform approach to protecting unaccompanied foreign minors in Europe. It urges the European Commission to draw up a Directive on the protection of unaccompanied minors that serves the best interests of the child. The principle of "the best interests of the child" should take precedence over all other national and international law. The EESC calls on the Member States to evaluate minority based on a body of evidence, consisting principally of the declarations by the person in question, civil status documents presented and interviews with the person. Given that bone tests are not really reliable, the EESC calls for them to simply be stopped.
When it comes to development and EU-Africa relations, the EESC consistently emphasised the importance of sustainable development and cooperation based on the rule of law and the respect for human rights. Initiatives focused on trade, investment and business relations with Africa could be welcomed, but not to the detriment of traditional development policies focusing on reaching the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). EU and Africa leaders agreed in 2015 at the Valletta summit on migration on setting up the EU Trust Fund for Africa (EUTF), as the main instrument of EU external migration policy. The Fund finances the development of border protection capacities, but also long-term development policy projects so as to decrease the likelihood of further migration.