Parliament debates migration and asylum with French National Assembly

On Tuesday, the LIBE Committee held an exchange of views with the Committee of European Affairs of the French National Assembly on migration and asylum.

By Erik Tate

14 Oct 2015

Danielle Auroi (Écologiste), Chair of the Committee of European Affairs of the French National Assembly, said that today it seems essential to have a topical dialogue on a topic of such essential importance, for the European Union’s political prospects too. It is good to make a joint contribution to this from both the national and European Parliament. Migratory flows are not just something one sees in the newspapers, but is something that needs to be discussed in the context of solidarity between the Member States. A more democratic Europe needs to deal with this, because there is always a risk in falling back in a nationalist way.

On October 9, the UN Security Council authorised the European Union to intervene and stop migrant traffickers on the high seas. However, the use of force is unlikely to solve anything, and it is regrettable that it is easier for Europeans to wage war than open their arms. Attacking the boats essentially means attacking the refugees, she said.

The European Parliament and the LIBE Committee have been key in bringing about change in the situation, and helped bring about the adoption of the fair binding distribution of refugees. However, there are also important issues surrounding managing the external borders, and the Luxembourg Presidency has called for setting up an external European border guard.

There are a number of questions arising from these developments, such as whether they need common European rules for asylum, was basis could be used for this, how refugees can be facilitated into the labour market, how they should help those countries dealing with the most refugees, and how they can strengthen reception capacity. Refugees are not a threat but rather an opportunity, and it is now time to show solidarity in the EU.


Josef Weidenholzer (S&D, AT) noted that this was the first videoconference of this kind for the LIBE Committee, and hoped that it would be a fruitful and rewarding exercise. The subject of the meeting is migration and refugee issues, on which the LIBE Committee is currently producing a strategic own initiative report. For this the Committee has heard from several experts in a range of areas, and focuses on a range of areas including border management, visa policy, safe and lawful routes and cooperation with third countries, among others.


Anna Maria Corazza Bildt (EPP, SE) said that it was a pleasure to discuss with the National Assembly a subject at the very top of the EPP’s agenda; how to receive people arriving on Europe’s shores in a human fashion. There needs to be a holistic approach, with aspects such as the stabilisation of Libya, but the fundamental duty is to save lives. They cannot take all of the refugees into Europe but they can save the lives of those coming in. Operations is the Mediterranean need to be bolstered, as experience has shown these rescue operations are both necessary and inadequate.

When people arrive at the European border they need to be registered. Europe must also be stronger against the traffickers, which is not the same as attacking the refugees but rather protecting them. The common rules that already exists must first be put into effect by the Member States, she said, and called on the National Assembly to ensure that all Member States fulfil their responsibilities. Under the asylum package they need to make sure exactly who has the right to asylum, and economic migrants must be dealt with under the Return Directive.

She asked if the French representatives agreed that they now need to move from a voluntary system, with regard to resettlement from UN refugee camps, to a mandatory one. She added that the current numbers are not sufficient and stressed that the Action Plan recently launched with Turkey needs to be implemented to help them with their refugees.


Marietta Karamanli (Socialiste, républicain et citoyen) said that this is a huge challenge but also an opportunity. Faced with this migratory crisis Europe has to be stronger than ever, contrary to what many nationalists and populists would want us to believe. This is a huge crisis and they have to show extra solidarity. Before this crisis migration policy was regarded as a sovereign issue and they have realised that the real borders are those of the Member States. Only together they can be stronger. As François Hollande said in front of the European Parliament, these 160 000 people are fleeing war and persecution. She noted that in May 2015 she presented a report relating to migration, but this challenge has perhaps become even more prevalent since its creation. This is a battle which must take place on three fronts: humanitarian aid, rescue/saving people at sea, and geostrategic issues.


Juan Fernando López Aguilar (S&D, ES) welcomed the bilateral contact on this topic and important issue. He recalled the European Parliament’s support for the holistic approach to migration which should include international cooperation, common external border controls and the principles of international humanitarian law. It is very important for the European Parliament to base its policies on the full respect of human rights and international, as well as, of course, European law.

Migration policy needs to be fully developing on the basis of a shared responsibility as set out in Article 80 of the Treaty of the European Union, while at the same time they must revisit the Dublin Regulation, whose death certificate has been signed. Asylum must be seen as a right and judged by individual cases, but at the same time the European Union must be involved in sea operations, and in this sense step up budget provisions for 2016.

With regard to illegal trafficking and the reasons for it – such as poverty, inequality, injustice and armed conflict – they need to open up humanitarian corridors to effectively tackle this. There also needs to be greater prospects for integration into the labour market and pathways for regular migration across the external borders.


Charles de La Verpillière (Les Républicains) noted that Frontex has published the 2015 figures for migration into the European Union, showing that 710 000 people arrived in the first nine months of 2015. This is significantly higher than the 282 000 recorded in the whole of last year. This is a big challenge for Europe and the solution will also have to be a European solution. To outline his view, and that of the Republican Party, he wanted to emphasise five measures that need to be taken by the European Union:

  1. They need to scrutinise asylum applications as far upstream as possible before people have to cross the Mediterranean. If these people are rejected, this would then enable a faster and easier return to the countries of origin. The early examination of these applications could take place in African countries, in Turkey, and in Libya when order has been restored.
  2. He welcomed the creation of hotspots, the first of which have been set up is Lesbos. However, the same principle has to apply here in that economic migrants must be returned to their countries of origin.
  3. The European Union should develop its diplomatic relations with countries of origin and transit to facilitate the return of migrants.
  4. They should harmonise the rules for handling asylum applications.
  5. They need to fight the traffickers and human smugglers, and take legal measures to destroy the crafts that they are using.



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