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Which is the right path?
Commission Report and European citizens´ views
“The European Union needs a strong and coherent migration policy, responding both to short term and long term needs. We need to effectively manage our external borders, to safeguard free movement within the EU, to provide genuine protection to those in need whilst at the same time providing channels for legal migration and mobility”, said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner for Home Affairs, commenting on the Report on the 2011 developments in the areas of immigration and asylum report. It is a fundamental issue, considering that there are some 20.2 million third-country nationals in the EU, around 4% of the total EU population (502.5 million) and 9.4% of the estimated 214 million migrants worldwide.
In favour and against. The economic crisis, the consequences of the Arab Spring and pressures on the Schengen area, occurred in the year 2011, have seriously put to the test EU solidarity towards third countries as well as mutual trust between Member States. European citizens aren’t per se against migrations, provided that these occur in full respect of the laws of European countries without affecting security issues and without upsetting the “lifestyle” of the Old Continent. In fact, some identify migrants as direct “competitors” in the job market, with many episodes of xenophobia and racism, elements that have accompanied the history of migration. The Report, presented by Commissioner Malmström on June 1st, was supported by a Eurobarometer survey on the same issues. According to findings, 8 out of 10 Europeans agree that EU Member States should offer protection and asylum to those in need” and that “rules for admitting asylum seekers should be the same across the EU”. Eurobarometer reveals that “68% of the poll thinks that legal immigrants should have the same rights as their own national citizens”. Four in ten Europeans (42%) think the EU “should encourage labour migration from non EU countries to help tackle demographic challenges and labour shortages”, with 46% disagreeing.
Illegal migrants. High levels of attention as regards illegal immigration. In 2011 some 343 000 persons were refused entry to the EU, a decrease of 13% from 2010. Also in 2011, some 468 500 persons were apprehended (a decrease from 2010 when it was about 505 000) and Member States returned around 190 000 third-country nationals (15% less than in 2010). To this regard eight Europeans in ten (80%) think that the EU should increase its assistance to Member States to handle irregular migration. 78% think that the cost of handling irregular migration should be shared among EU Member States.
Integration, free circulation. 53% of the poll (Eurorobarometer interviewees always amount to more than 20 thousand, from across the EU) thinks that immigration “enriches EU countries economically and culturally”, 60% of the Europeans believe immigrants “may face integration difficulties because of discrimination”. The Report shows that the in 2010, the average employment rate of third-country nationals – Africa, Americas, Asia - aged 20-64 was 58.5%, compared to 68.6% of the total population aged 20-64. As regards the Schengen area, a large majority of Europeans (67%) think it is important to be able to travel within the EU without internal border controls”.
Single asylum system. Annual Reports on Immigration and Asylum follow the request made by the European Council when adopting the 2008 Pact on Immigration and Asylum to “Continue work towards effective integration to fully benefit from the potential offered by migrants”, not only in economic terms but also socially and culturally. For the EU Commission it’s crucial to respond to migratory pressures including through dialogue and cooperation with non-EU countries. The 2012 target, bearing in mind the Report and Eurobarometer is to offer protection and asylum to those in need. Commissioner Malmström confides that only with a consistent policy that will take stock of all of these aspects “will benefit from the positive contribution of migration”. The Commission also presented a proposal to step up Eurodac, a system launched in 2003 to promote the rapid and correct identification of the competent Member state for the analysis of an asylum request.