How does the European Union view immigration?

Asylum and immigration

Open borders force common solutions

Within the EU, common rules apply to the competent state in the asylum procedure. All other EU states can refer to its decisions. The asylum procedure is made very effective through minimum standards for the asylum procedure and improved identification of asylum seekers.

The second phase of the common asylum policy is currently being prepared, which should lead to further harmonization. It includes the introduction of a common asylum procedure and the creation of a uniform status across the Union for those who are granted asylum.

Common rules have also been found for immigration - for example to reunite families, to study or to do a research stay. The aim is a common immigration policy. The target group for integration measures should be people who are already legally staying with us and want to stay.

Many people from other parts of the world, most recently from Africa, want to work in the European Union to support their families at home. Often they choose dangerous routes for this, for example through the Sahara to the Spanish possessions in North Africa, or on the dangerous sea route to the Canary Islands or across the Mediterranean to Italy, Greece and Malta. The EU states must work together to find ways to reduce this pressure on their external borders. This includes an active development and human rights policy in the countries of origin of the illegal immigrants, which helps to reduce the causes of flight. The federal government advocates an overall European concept against illegal immigration.

Germany is no longer the number one asylum country in the EU
For the first time in almost 20 years, Germany no longer tops the list of countries with the most asylum seekers in the European Union. This comes from the asylum statistics of the UN refugee agency UNHCR. According to this, Great Britain is now the most wanted country for asylum seekers in the EU.

Entry regulations
It would make little sense if the open borders meant that those wishing to enter the EU could initiate a new asylum procedure and thereby prevent deportation. Therefore, an agreement concluded in Dublin in June 1990 provides that asylum procedures within the EU are only carried out by one member state.

The agreement regulates which country is responsible in each case. In principle, an asylum application is then processed by the EU country that the asylum seeker entered first - unless another country has already issued a residence permit, an entry visa or a transit visa. Anyone who was safe from persecution in a country that complies with the Geneva Refugee Convention cannot request the possibility of onward travel to another host country. The Dublin Agreement has now been ratified by all of the signatory states and entered into force on September 1, 1997. The EU member states have already adopted further joint regulations on asylum law.

The EU regulation "Dublin II" of February 18, 2003 also stipulates that the responsible EU state looks after the applicant during the entire asylum procedure. If the person concerned travels on to another EU country, they can be sent back to the relevant country.

In practice, the regulation means that asylum seekers have to stay in the EU country they first entered. The condition for this is that they are properly registered on arrival: your fingerprints are stored in the Eurodac electronic database, which went into operation in January 2003. With the help of this database, national authorities can check whether an asylum seeker has already applied for asylum in another Member State. With this, the EU wants to slow down so-called asylum shopping.

EU states decide on asylum law with a third country rule
Immediately before the accession of the ten new member states, the interior ministers of the 15 "old" EU states agreed on a directive that allows asylum seekers to be rejected at the border if they come from previously defined safe third countries. A deportation before the decision on so-called follow-up applications of the asylum seekers is then possible.

According to the new directive on minimum standards for asylum procedures, applicants can be sent back on arrival without further examination of their case if they come from a safe third country. Such a transit country is considered safe if it has ratified and complies with the Geneva Refugee Convention. It must also have a legally regulated asylum procedure and respect the European Convention on Human Rights. In other cases, the third-country concept should only be applied if the authorities have convinced themselves of the safe situation for the refugee.

The separate assessment of individual parts of the country and certain population groups has also been included in the set of rules. The British government in particular had requested this. Lists of safe third countries or countries of origin are not included in the directive. The Council of Ministers also adopted the Directive on the Protection of Refugees from Non-State Persecution, which Member States had politically agreed on four weeks ago.

It all started with the Schengen Agreement
Within the European Union, a group of states had come together that were determined to quickly dismantle controls at the internal borders between the member states. The implementing agreement for the Schengen Treaty has been in force in Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal since March 26, 1995. Austria and Italy have applied the provisions of the agreement in full since April 1, 1998. Greece joined on January 1, 2000.

Through the Schengen Protocol to the Amsterdam Treaty of October 2nd, 1997, Schengen cooperation was incorporated into the EU with effect from May 1st, 1999. The Schengen Acquis (Schengen Agreement and the regulations enacted on this basis) and its further development have been transferred to the competence of the European Community in many areas. There are special rules for Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark: Great Britain and Ireland are not parties to the Schengen Agreement; they can take over the Schengen acquis in whole or in part with the approval of the EU Council and participate in its further development. Denmark decides on a case-by-case basis whether it will join the further development of the acquis on the basis of international law and whether it wishes to apply Community law that came into being without its participation as national law.

The cooperation agreements between the user states with Norway and Iceland have been replaced by association agreements with the EU, which are very similar in content, on the basis of the Amsterdam Treaty. Switzerland will also apply the rules of the Schengen Treaty in the medium term.

Treaty of Amsterdam
With the Treaty of Amsterdam, asylum policy became part of the EC Treaty (Articles 61 to 69), so legal acts of the Union in this area have been given a high degree of binding force and can be reviewed by the European Court of Justice. Asylum issues are part of the goal of creating an area of ​​freedom, security and justice, which also provides for rules on a common immigration policy, judicial cooperation in civil matters and police and judicial cooperation in criminal matters. The aim is, on the one hand, to improve the integration of immigrants who are entitled to stay, but on the other hand, to combat illegal immigration more consistently than before.

In December 2002 in particular, the Dublin II Regulation was adopted to determine the Member State responsible for processing asylum applications. Together with the Eurodac regulation (for improved identification of asylum seekers), which was adopted in 2001, the asylum procedure is made much more effective in this way. Political agreement was also reached on the directive on minimum standards for the reception of asylum seekers. Further projects, which are to be adopted by mid-2003, are the guidelines on the definition of the term refugee and persons receiving subsidiary protection. Complemented by the already adopted European Refugee Fund and the directive on the temporary protection of displaced persons, this creates a common base of minimum provisions of a European asylum and refugee law in accordance with the Geneva Refugee Convention.

Treaty of Nice
The Nice Treaty extended this automatic transition from unanimity to qualified majority voting. First of all, the following areas are voted on by qualified majority: asylum and refugees (provided that relevant Community provisions have been enacted by then) and judicial cooperation in civil matters with a cross-border character, with the exception of aspects of family law. Since May 1, 2004, a qualified majority has been voting on measures relating to the free movement of third-country nationals on the territory of the Member States for a maximum of three months, illegal immigration and administrative cooperation in the free movement of persons.

With the EU summit in Thessaloniki in June 2003, a common immigration policy for the European Union came closer. The European Union will make problems with refugee flows more an issue in its relations with other states. The Union intends to spend 250 million euros on this cooperation and for the repatriation of refugees over the next few years. An annual report on migration is seen as a first step towards common EU rules to manage legal immigration to Europe.

The EU interior ministers agreed to help victims of human traffickers to help identify the perpetrators. According to the basic decision of the interior ministers, the victims of human traffickers in all EU countries should get a residence permit of at least six months if they work with the police. Despite German concerns, the European Union will examine a common quota system for legal immigration. The EU Commission was commissioned to work out a study on the immigration rates of the soon to be 25 EU countries.

After months of tug-of-war, at the end of March 2004 the states of the European Union agreed on a cornerstone of their common asylum law. Access to the social systems and the labor market should continue to be largely based on national rules in the future. The planned directive on asylum procedures remained controversial in the Brussels Council of Ministers. The President of the Council and Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell said there was no consensus on the list of so-called safe third countries and their application. The same applies to the question of safe countries of origin and rules for an objection to the rejection of an asylum application.

«Green Paper» on ways to regulate the access of workers from non-EU countries
At the beginning of January 2005, the EU Commission presented a “Green Paper” on ways of regulating access for workers from non-EU countries. This is intended to initiate a broad discussion about a common immigration policy. A major hearing on immigration is due to take place in July 2005 this year.

Since 1999, several attempts by the Commission to regulate immigration from third countries have failed at the Council of Ministers. It is up to national governments to decide how many immigrants will be admitted. The German government, too, has always taken the view that this is a decision that does not fall within the competence of the EU.

In the Commission's «Green Paper», the push for uniform regulation of immigration from third countries is justified by the fact that this is important in order to secure economic growth in the future. Between 2010 and 2030, the number of employees in the 35 EU countries will fall by 20 million as a result of the aging of the population. "This development will have a major impact on overall economic growth." The fact that, in the absence of such a regulation, migration flows tend to circumvent national laws and regulations also speak in favor of establishing uniform decision-making criteria.