By Hilde Vautmans, The Euobserver, 04 July 2022
BRUSSELS - This week the now-expired French EU presidency is set to announce the agreed relocation pledges under their solidarity plan.
Together with an agreement on Eurodac and screening, the European Council wants to show its willingness to move on the running migration files by taking these files out of the complete package. The faster the better.
It goes without saying I welcome their pursuit for solidarity and their desire to conclude Eurodac and screening. Both files are essential to accelerate the protection of our borders, enhance security on European soil, as well as to improve information sharing across the EU. For instance, currently we cannot link irregular border crossings to specific persons.
Therefore, it can happen we record three irregular crossings, but in reality, they are linked to the same person.
Secondly, we want to protect victims of trafficking, specifically minors, and assist with the identification and protection of missing children. Today, we do not record fingerprints of six-year olds, which makes it impossible to identify or locate minors when they go missing.
Another reason we need to update our current system is the fight against irregular border crossings in se, as well as to identify secondary movements of resettled third-country nationals. The update of Eurodac will tackle these issues if we do it the right way, with the necessary safeguards.
Screening is equally important. It is essential to know exactly who enters the EU and when. Not only to enhance security in Europe, but also to provide migrants with the necessary support.
By including this screening procedure we will know if the person is a threat to security, which vulnerabilities he, she or X has, and if they need specific medical attention or concrete accommodation for example. We need a tailored migration approach and this regulation will make this happen.
Finally, the council mandate was accompanied by a political declaration, stating that relocation will remain on voluntary basis, or member states accept a minimum of 10,000 migrants per year or they contribute through financial aids to help other states receiving migrants.
In order to make this engagement operational and concrete, a solidarity platform will be created for the receiving states to exchange information on their real needs on the ground and for the other to contribute in a way that matches these needs.
No sanctions are foreseen in case a state will not act in line with the declaration. Financial sanctions might be introduced at a later stage.
The total solidarity offer on the table after the council meeting is around 7,000 relocations. The aspiration is to bring the number to 10,000. This clear message of solidarity is important as it should not only be the member states at the frontline who should invest in managing migration and supporting refugees. All states should do their part.
However, this declaration, the screening procedure and Eurodac are an empty shell if we do not adopt the other files of the migration package.
The majority of the European Parliament is still convinced of the package approach and equally wants to move forward on other essential files touching upon the core of our European policy, such as relocation, migration management and procedures for example.
Security is only one element of the debate, the issue is much more complex than one could think.
These files are like a chain, if you take out one link, the chain seizes to exist. We must tackle the core of our current migration system, in a 360-degree manner. Otherwise, it is a given our policy will fail, putting the most vulnerable refugees such as children, women and LGBTIQ+ persons at risk.
In 2016, already 6! years ago, 10.000 children on the move went missing, and in the meanwhile, more could not be accounted for. Since the European Commission has presented its communication on unaccompanied minors and the updated migration package, nothing has changed on the ground.
The opposite, the current climate crisis, pandemic and wars all around the world only exacerbated the existing problems. We record pushbacks all around Europe, deaths across the seas, more missing and exploited children and women, lengthy procedures, refugees without housing, and so on.
A real crisis of our system, not a crisis of migrants. It is not their responsibility to tackle the current issues, it is ours.
Today 100 million people are displaced worldwide and last year alone there were 650,000 asylum applications in the EU.
We must ensure the EU is ready to finally deal with the issues that come along. By only screening, fingerprinting or relocating (some) refugees, or by outsourcing our border control to Turkey and giving Erdogan our keys, we will not solve the current problems.
Therefore, it is time to be courageous, thoroughly reform our current migration policy and take back control.
We must achieve a real common European asylum system, which protects our security, but also protects vulnerable people such as children. I call on the Council to do the same and to move on all open files. That is what the European citizens expect from us.
Hilde Vautmans is an MEP with Renew Europe and Open Vld and a member of the European Parliament LIBE Committee, shadow rapporteur of the Eurodac file and co-chair of the intergroup on children's rights.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver or CEMAS.