How to shape a comprehensive European Asylum and Migration System?

09.04 - 09.04.2014, Representation of Saxony Anhalt to the EU

Asylum and migration are issues which make lack of a common European policy appar-ent. Asylum, emigration and immigration remain mostly under the competence of the member states, as they are considered an issue of national sovereignty and mostly ap-proached from a security perspective. There is a desperate need for progress towards a common policy in the asylum and legal migration. At an event organized by the Europe-an Security Round Table in cooperation with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, the fu-ture of European Migration and Asylum Policy was discussed at the Representation of the State of Saxony Anhalt.

The conference was opened by Saxony Anhalts Minister of Interior Holger Stahlknecht who underlined the historic dimension of immigration in the region and described policy challenges for a local government in a central European region. In her following keynote EU Commissioner for Home Affairs, Cecilia Malmström painted a contrasted picture of the EU’s asylum and migration policy. On the positive note, the European Asy-lum System provides asylum seekers in Europe with equal rights and uniform standards paying special atten-tion to the most vulnerable such as unaccompanied minors and victims of human trafficking.

She explained that the shock created by Lampedusa tragedy in October 2013 helped to accelerate the adoption of EUROSUR and caused creation the Task Force Mediterranean that is aimed to improve asylum situation in Europe. These new instruments are aimed at to upgrade the information-exchange system between member states and to guarantee protection and resettlement of refugees and migrants. Despite general satisfaction with recent achievements in the field of asylum, the Commissioner Malmström expressed con-cern with uneven migratory pressure on the member states. She also pointed out the lack of political will and solidarity with regard to resettlement of refugees.

The Commissioner concluded by calling for further steps in the field of legal migration. Europe urgently needs “to open more legal channels”. Our panelists agreed with Commissioner Malmström on the need to fight xenophobic political rhetoric. Frank Engel MEP, strongly condemned the lack of solidarity of some mem-ber states and said that “migration cannot be regulated with fences, we need to make sure that it is possible to come to Europe legally”. Leon Prop, head of the EU office of the Red Cross, acquiesced by reminding all that “migrating is not a crime”, thus detention should only be used as a last resort. “I cannot think of another topic where public debate is only about negative impacts”, said Leon Prop. Markus Löning, former Commis-sioner for Human Rights of the Federal Republic of Germany, agreed and called upon a more comprehensive political debate “talking about people, not only about numbers and problems”. In his view political parties carry a responsibility to re-frame the debate around the benefits of migration and reception countries have to make sure that their schooling systems provide equal opportunities for all. Löning drew from his family’s ex-perience, which migrated to and from Germany, to recall that “Europe is a continent of migration”. Indeed, as mi-gration is in the DNA of Europe, the discourse should be governed by chances instead of fear.

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