Photo: ESI

New deal with Africa

Legal access and fast return

The idea of a genuine common EU asylum policy is dead. Instead a colition of EU member states should establish common asylum centres where asylum seekers enter the EU. After fair, yet quick procedures, those receiving protection should be distributed to EU countries on a voluntary basis; those not receiving protection should be quickly returned to their countries of origin. In order to ensure co-operation from those countries, tangible benefits such as legal access for their citizens to the EU have to be offered. 

A new deal with African countries would take four basic elements:

  1. A voluntary coalition of EU members: The idea of distributing migrants across the EU according to a quota system never had a chance of succeeding. Instead, the initiative should be taken by a voluntary coalition of EU member states that believe access to the EU can and should be controlled in a humane manner. For a start those countries should include at least Germany, France, Spain, and Greece, ideally also Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden and Malta and be open to others who want to join.
  2. Common asylum centres with fair yet rapid procedures: Those EU countries should establish common asylum centres in the locations where people are arriving, for example in Spain, Corsica, Sicily or Malta. Aslyum procedures there would be conducted quickly, yet respecting European and international human right standards. The Netherlands show how a system respected by human rights organisations can deliver binding second instance decisions within 6-8 weeks for the big majority of cases. 
  3. Voluntary distribution of people needing protection: People for whom the common asylum centres determine they need protection should be quickly distributed to EU members that are part of the voluntary coalition. 
  4. Take-back agreements with countries of origin: People for whom the common asylum centres determine they do not need protection should be quickly returned to their countries of origin. This is only possible in close co-operation with those countries. For this to work two issues are important: First, respective arrangements would need to be applicable only to future cases (and exclude migrants from those countries already residing in the EU). This is important for the governments of countries of origin, as then actual numbers of returns would remain small and thereby politically defensible. Second, those countries would need to get something tangible in return, for example legal access for their citizens to the EU through annual contingents for work visa and scholarships for students.

Such arrangements are most important with those West African countries like Nigeria, Senegal, Ghana and Gambia whose citizens make up for more than half of those arriving through the central Mediterranean, but who have only very low chances to get protection. A first pilot project could involve The Gambia and Germany. In parallel, a common asylum centre should also be established on the Greek islands. This would significantly improve the situation on the Greek islands (as explained in How to implement the EU-Turkey statement).

We expect that these measures would lead to less people making these dangerous trips and thereby less people drowning in the Mediterranean. EU members then should increase the number of refugees they directly resettle from conflict zones through UNHCR.