Better cooperation key to effective asylum policy

Europe faces a huge challenge in terms of migration and asylum which requires a robust and clear strategy, writes Timothy Kirkhope.

By Timothy Kirkhope

22 May 2015

Now is the time for dynamic and decisive action. It is only the first half of 2015, and yet we have seen a tragic number of deaths and ever-increasing numbers of those attempting to reach Europe's shores.

Europe must make sure that it is making every effort to save lives, create stability in conflict regions and assist member states overwhelmed by the challenges they face. 

I believe that the solution does not lie in more forms of legal migration and binding quotas, but in building a sustainable approach to asylum and migration which focuses on addressing the cause, not the symptoms. 


The simple truth is that no amount of legal migration will ever satisfy the demand to come to the EU. I also believe that by conflating economic migration and asylum you do both categories of migrants a disservice. 

We must have separate approaches and action plans for those seeking asylum, economic migrants, and those who are being trafficked by criminals or are involved in potential criminal activity. 

Instead, member states need to commit more resources and offer more humanitarian resettlement and aid. We need efficient asylum processing and an expedient returns system. 

Frontex, Europol and the European asylum support office need to be better equipped and better mandated to help with one of the most important goals in this area - better implementation. It is therefore positive to see this reflected in the commission strategy. 

There are a number of European countries who are failing to already fulfil their basic obligation regarding fundamental rights and detention conditions. We must avoid a situation where it is a race to the bottom in order to avoid obligations.

When it comes to the imperative task of saving lives - many more will be saved by tackling the issue at the source and by not allowing trafficked vessels to depart in the first place and as a consequence cutting off the fortunes made by human traffickers. 

Cooperation with third countries is key to achieving this. We need effective resettlement agreements, police cooperation and training, and widespread information campaigns in order to warn individuals of the dangers of human trafficking and exploitation. 

We must also work to ensure than criminal individuals and groups have no place to hide from prosecution both in Europe and outside. 

One area which the commission's strategy did not reflect upon in great enough detail is the role of community cohesion and integration within the EU. Integration goes beyond the offering of funding, and instead requires a strategy on all levels of society. 

It is also a longstanding humanitarian principle that individuals should seek asylum in the first safe country that they arrive in. 

When I was the UK's immigration minister, I also held the role of race relations minister. I strongly believe that the two go hand in hand to create a successful, inclusive, and positive environment for those who come to live here in Europe. 

Yes, we must cooperate and act at an EU level, fulfil our humanitarian duty, and show solidarity to those member states on the frontline; but we must also look at how we can help third countries where refugees originate to create infrastructure, rebuild democracy, foster opportunity and rule of law, and create a stable economy and positive future for individuals in their home countries. 

I have always believed that a one size fits all policy for asylum and migration is not the answer. While the UK does not participate in all of the common asylum system, it still receives and grants one of the highest numbers of applications within the EU. 

This is because true solidarity and assistance is built through trust and commitment to doing the right thing. 

This cannot be created through compulsion or mandatory distribution keys. An effective migration and asylum policy only works if everyone is signed up to a system built on confidence in the functioning of each other's national asylum systems and the democratic support of the people.

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