Does migration policy push innovation? Yes, it does!

Highly-skilled migrants seem the solution for European needs in terms not only of growth but also for innovation.

Does research provide evidence for this general impression?

Measuring innovation is very complex. Two proxies are used to measure innovation in production: the registration of patents; and total factor productivity.

The registration of a patent at the national or European level is done only if there is the intention of implementing the innovation, because it is very costly: thus the number and the citation of patents are used to capture the innovative behavior of firms.

Total Factor Productivity captures, instead, the unexplained effect on growth in production, which cannot be attributed to the increases in production inputs, and that capture the final effect of innovation.

The research was carried out along two broad lines:

  • A first strand of research focuses upon the production of patents directly by foreigners. Thus it looks at the effect of more open legislation that favour the entrance of foreign migrants: e.g.  in the USA  H-1B visa policy, which facilitated  the entrance of highly-skilled foreigners with higher education in Mathematics and Sciences and  the variation in the number of patents registered by foreign nationals after the introduction of the norm.

        The conclusion is that the more open but specific  the visa policy is on highly skilled  in Science and Technology, the more patents will be registered by foreigners.

This strand of research is in favour of a more open highly-skilled migration policy. The result is, however, conditioned for the USA, which is a special case. The USA is able, in fact, to attract highly-skilled workers in  large numbers for the  wage premium offered , the high probability of highly-skilled jobs, as well as the language, English, which reduces the initial cost of migration, not to mention the open nature of American society. This also increases the return of a move, which frequently has started before in the education phase.

Thus the results related to the US should be taken cautiously in Europe because they are limited to a very favorable context where the internal mobility of firms is impressively large.

  • The second and broader direction of the research is, instead, upon the effect of migrant workers in the production at regional, sector or firm level on innovation measured both by patents and by TFP. The evidence in this strand of research is much broader with many country cases and international studies.

Highly-skilled migrants have a positive effect on the production or implementation of innovation. The analyses at local level show that diversity in national origin of workers leads to a positive impact. This though disappears at sector or frequently at firm level.

The diversity measure is very challenging because it is not only the total amount of migrants, but also its composition that is relevant for innovation.

If, on the one hand, the diversity index comes from the idea that there are complementary skills among migrants from different national backgrounds, the lack of strong evidence at firm and sector levels suggests a likely penetration of migrants of different origins in different sectors. These complement each other in the innovation process. More research in this field should be carried out to direct migration policy properly.

Any migration policy which favours the entrance of foreign citizens is thus beneficial, in general, for innovation at territorial, sector and firm level. The results on the beneficial effects of diversity are not yet universal and there is not enough evidence to justify changing the point system, which concentrates on the quality of the migrant- for  a quota system which selects by nationality.

The general conclusion is that inflows of highly-educated migrants favour innovation but also the variety of origin of the migrants can play a positive role at least at the regional level. Thus a more open migration policy for the highly-skilled will prove positive for innovation.


For more, see the MPC Policy Brief Innovation and Human Capital: the Role of Migration (Venturini A., 2013)

By Alessandra Venturini, Deputy Director of the Migration Policy Centre and Professor of Political Economy at the University of Turin

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre


Between Solidarity and the Priority to Protect – Where Refugee Relocation meets Refugee Resettlement

As resettlement in Europe continues to evolve, its effectiveness in responding to humanitarian emergencies and long term refugee situations beyond EU territory has been challenged by difficulties which are related to how EU Member States answer the question – What does the resettlement of refugees consist of?

Solidarity of Member States with third states is perhaps best demonstrated through resettlement while relocation is an example of internal Member State solidarity. There is a need to define both of these terms. It has been made clear by the Commission in its Communication to the European Parliament and the Council on the establishment of a joint EU resettlement programme (page 3) that, unlike resettlement which is considered a humanitarian enterprise concerned with solidarity with third countries, relocation is a ‘burden sharing’ exercise, at the heart of which is solidarity between EU Member States north and south.

The Know Reset project has considered how this defined difference does not prevent Member States from allowing overlap between these two distinct undertakings. The importance of access to protection for refugees prompted the EU to begin to explore more feasible methods by which refugees may be taken by Member States and given protection. These refugees did not therefore have to gain access to Union territory. This resettlement was widely regarded as being in solidarity with the European neighbourhood – especially non-Member States to the south.

As resettlement evolved the idea of this external solidarity became somewhat confused by expressions of internal solidarity. Those persons who gained access to Member State territory through ‘irregular’ means and later became refugees have, in certain circumstances, been relocated to other Member States. Most of these clandestine arrivals have been to Mediterranean Member States who have found themselves under intense strain from such migration. As an act of solidarity, Member States have taken refugees from their fellow Member State.

The following is a table of those EU Member States which have relocated under the EUREMA programme in Malta according to the EASO report on that programme. This relocation programme is an intra-European initiative which takes internationally protected individuals from one Member State and finds another Member State willing to accept these individuals.

Member States Relocation Resettlement
Czech Republic  

*Denotes Member States which have committed to relocate refugees as part of the EUREMA programme but have yet to do so.

Relocation from Malta is on-going and uptake in participation has increased. The word which arises time and time again among the States which participate is solidarity. The States which participate are, more often than not, northern EU Member States. They are not on the receiving end of the heavy migration flows which reach the southern, Mediterranean Member States. On that basis, relocation from the Mediterranean to their own State is seen as an act of solidarity.

The tension arises through certain Member States, typically those which are most experienced in resettlement, calling into question whether relocation comes at the expense of resettlement. Resettlement undoubtedly remains the preferable response to those most in need. The priority to protect those who have not been able to gain access to European territory should remain the primary objective in the view of certain Member States.

Malta, the home of the EASO, has been the venue of the aforementioned EU relocation pilot project – EUREMA. An emerging role of the EASO is in evaluating the relocation pilot project as can be seen from the EASO’s September newsletter.

It has become clear that there may be a risk of using relocation as a substitute for resettlement. This is a misperception that the EU, Member States and the EASO must be mindful of in participating in refugee relocation in Europe. The friction between relocation and resettlement indeed points to the greater challenges in achieving a functioning and effective solidarity within the Common European Asylum System.

In July of 2012, the EASO released a fact finding report on intra-EU relocation activities from Malta. Respondents to the report expressed “mixed” views on relocation:

“While a number of participating States maintained that voluntary ad hoc relocation measures with Malta were a concrete tool for demonstrating intra-EU solidarity, and generally assessed them positively, other States feared that …relocation …could act as a pull factor for irregular migration…”

“…concerns were expressed about the possible implication of relocation on the resettlement quotas in the EU. It was stressed that intra-EU relocation should not be confused with resettlement of refugees from third countries.”

The EASO here underline what must be a pivotal consideration if the resettlement of refugees in Europe is to increase quantitatively and qualitatively. As part of our research we have recorded reaction to relocation across the twenty-seven EU Member States. Interesting perspectives on the advantages and disadvantages of relocation have been gathered and provide an insight into State behaviour.

Differing attitudes were identified among Member States toward relocation – some advocate for it, certain States are opposed to it and still others seem not to differentiate completely between relocation and resettlement.

Of those States which express doubt as to the use of relocation, a Swedish opinion on the matter was expressed in an interview by Know Reset with a political adviser to the Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy.[1] That adviser stated that Sweden is doubtful as to the use of relocation; it was stated that the places used for relocation should instead be used for resettlement from outside the EU. The interviewee went on to state that there were alternative measures of solidarity which could be pursued if Member States wanted to express their solidarity. Finland is of a similar disposition to their Scandinavian neighbours. Finland and Sweden represent two traditional resettlement countries. Both States have well established and large resettlement on a programme basis. Another interesting emerging viewpoint from our research in Scandinavia is that the Member States to the north often do not accept that reducing the pressure on its southern counterparts should be a legitimate aim. This sentiment should be considered in the context of the northern Member States believing that they already take a considerable share of the so-called ‘burden’ of refugee numbers. This is interesting when it is considered how often intra-EU solidarity is proffered by certain Member States as a reason for pursuing relocation.

Slovakia does not conduct resettlement but has announced that it intends to participate in relocation. Hungary is in a similar position. Lithuania committed in 2011 to relocate from Malta but that declaration has yet to be implemented. A trend for certain States is emerging that if they do not participate in resettlement, they may instead be involved in relocation. The overwhelming reason given for this is that of solidarity with EU partners to the south. If those countries were not involved in relocation, would they be resettling refugees? This question is impossible to answer definitively however a tendency has emerged for newer Member States, which are oftentimes new to refugee resettlement as well, to primarily pursue relocation as an avenue of EU solidarity in terms of refugee intake.

Finally, there also exists a grey area in between preferences for resettlement and preferences for relocation. Ireland and France typify this intermediary position. Refugees whom arrive to the State as part of a relocation regime may be included in the quota of that State for refugee resettlement. The need to differentiate between relocation and resettlement is particularly salient in this context.

The overwhelming message to be gleaned is that the relocation of refugees within Europe must not come at the expense of resettlement. Resettlement, the humanitarian enterprise, underlines the priority to protect. Taking refugees from third States beyond the Union which are host to much larger numbers of refugees is taking the most vulnerable and giving them an opportunity that they otherwise will not receive. Protection must be the priority and as difficult as conditions are within certain Member States for refugees, if they are at least properly protected then it is still a fortunate situation in comparison to the precarious position of many refugees in camps across the world.

The EASO can play a role in ensuring that relocation is not carried out at the expense of granting resettlement to those refugees who are eligible for resettlement and who are still at risk and should be a protection priority. National authorities should also be aware of the distinction and the importance of not putting protection priorities behind the commendable desire to express solidarity with other Member States. This balance must always be at the forefront of any consideration of relocation.

This article is based on the results of the research led within the framework of the KNOW RESET project.

The Know Reset team recently teamed up with the EASO Monitor blog in considering the EASO’s growing role in resettlement in Europe. The thanks of the Know Reset team goes to Dr. Neil Falzon and everyone at Aditus and the EASO monitor for the original collaboration.

Frank Mc Namara, Research Assistant to Know Reset.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] In an interview with Know Reset’s Swedish researcher – Alina Ostling.

Challenging the Myth of the Undesirability of Low-Skilled Labour in the EU

When EU countries visualise an ideal immigrant, a highly-skilled and educated immigrant comes to mind. For many, the highly-skilled and skilled represent the only ´legitimate´ form of immigration. EU immigration policy in its current form is characterised by three main dimensions: attracting highly-skilled workers, deterring irregular migration, and promoting the integration of third country nationals. The EU approach is one of increased migration management so that Europe receives legal migration, particularly in sectors that are lacking in personnel. The increased emphasis on cooperation both with countries of origin and between Member States, as reflected in the Global Approach to Migration adopted in 2011, is part of this drive to more efficiently manage migration. EU migration policy is therefore implicitly based on the assumption that low-skilled labor is no longer needed, and indeed, would be harmful to the European economy at a time of economic crisis and high unemployment, especially among youth. Low-skilled workers receive little attention at the EU level, with the exception of seasonal workers and in some bilateral agreements with individual EU countries. But is low-skilled immigration always unwelcome? A case study of low-skilled employment in the Italian dairy industry reveals that immigrants from the Punjab region of India have successfully inserted themselves into this sector of the Italian economy, without ´stealing´ jobs from native Italians.

How did Immigrants Manage to Enter into the Dairy Sector and convert it into an economic niche?

The dairy industry in Italy is the most important sector of Italian agriculture, with an annual turnover of 15 billion Euros in 2011 (all dairy products), including 2 billion Euros worth of cheese exports[1]. In Italy, dairy consumption is ´recession proof´, with Italians continuing to consume dairy products, including high-quality DOP (Protected Denomination of Origin) dairy products, despite the slowing of the Italian economy. Indeed, 87% of Italians consider their national DOP cheeses to be the foundation of the ´Made in Italy´ brand[2]. Indians have thus inserted themselves in a sector that is not only economically important, but also key to Italian identity. Dairy work has since become a Punjabi niche market, with 90% of the workers in this sector estimated to be Indian[3]. According to 2008 data from Istat, (the Italian Institute of Statistics), 42.9% of Indians work in the agricultural sector in the Lombardy region, compared to only 2.8% of the total foreign population, showing a marked tendency for Indians to concentrate in agriculture, particularly in Northern Italy.

The socioeconomic context leading to the Italian exodus from cow milking provides the background necessary to understanding how a low-skilled immigrant group has been able to enter and dominate a key domestic industry. A number of factors led to this Italian exodus from the dairy sector. The mechanisation of the industry beginning in the 1950´s led to a sharp reduction in the number of jobs available, forcing Italian youth to look for work elsewhere[4]. Secondly, the economic boom that Italy experienced in the post-war period led to new aspirations that working in the cascine (dairy farms) could not fulfill. In particular, the houses on the cascine were increasingly abandoned in favor of more modern urban housing[5]. Finally, the low social status associated with cow milking was an additional incentive to look for other work, even when the salary was raised and working conditions improved considerably with mechanisation. Male bergamini (cow milkers) could not find local marriage partners and had to resort to finding spouses from other Italian regions[6]. This native exodus from dairy milking led to demand for a reliable and steady source of labour that could replace Italian workers. In the region of Lombardia, the agricultural sector is distinguished, unlike in other parts of Italy, by the need for a specialised, stable and ´regular´ (i.e. legally documented) workforce that is highly available, in order to be able to adapt themselves to the demanding rhythms of a dairy farm and avoid high turn-over, which would harm productivity. Immigrant labour from India has met this demand for specialised labour that does not require a high level of education. The need for a dependable, ´regular´ workforce has meant that work in the dairy industry has avoided the systematic abuses and severe exploitation characteristic of Italian agriculture in other regions. Sources from the largest Italian union, the CGIL (Conferazione Generale Italiana di Lavoro), have indicated that the vast majority of immigrant workers in this sector possess legal contracts.

The Italian dairy industry is therefore a good example of the continuing need for low skilled third country labour in certain sectors of the European economy. Nor is it the only example: the area of geriatric care is another sector in which immigrant labour has proved to be critical, without harming national employment. While EU expansion can absorb some labour shortages, it cannot be assumed that all occupations will benefit from EU enlargement. In the UK, where migration policy has been completely closed to low-skilled workers (including in the case of temporary labour shortages), restaurant owners, especially from the ´ethnic´ restaurant sector, have raised concerns about the unfairness of a points-based immigration system that only considers skilled workers who possess formal qualifications[7]. The need for low-skilled labour is structural and continues to exist despite high rates of unemployment across Europe. In the case of the Italian dairy industry, native workers have spurned this sector despite its relatively high salaries, as well as other perks, such as free accommodation and ample opportunity to earn more via working overtime. The current thinking that accepts that third country nationals are needed in certain high skilled occupations in order for Europe to remain competitive, must also be extended to specific low-skilled sectors. EU migration policy should therefore take into consideration a sectoral approach when seeking to attract third-country nationals to the EU. Promoting only highly-skilled migration misses out on a number of sectors that need low-skilled immigrant labour in order to continue to thrive. Creating more opportunities for legal low-skilled migration can also contribute towards preventing irregular migration. Low-skilled does not mean ´no skill´, and can also be a pathway to other forms of employment, particularly entrepreneurship, in the future. Indeed, an increasing number of Punjabis who initially worked in the dairy sector are now establishing their own small businesses across Northern Italy.


Kathryn Lum, Research Assistant to CARIM-India

The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.


[1] No author, “Assolatte: il fatturato dei latticini italiani ha raggiunto nel 2011 i 15 miliardi di euro”, June 18 2012, accessed January 21 2013,

[2] No author, “Nel 2008 l´industria lattiero-casearia si conferma il primo settore alimentare italiano”, June 16 2009, accessed January 21 2013,

[3] European Journal, “Italy: Sikh Cheese Producers”, Deutsche WelleEnglish,  September 20 2008 08:12, accessed March 13 2012,

[4] Gardani et al. Turbani che non turbano: Ricerca sociologica sugli immigrati indiani nel cremonese. Provincia di Cremona: Osservatorio provinciale sull´immigrazione, 2002, 1-71. (see p. 30).

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid. (see p. 31).

[7] Grimwood, Gabrielle. Immigration: Points-Based Immigration and the Restaurant Trade. London: House of Commons Library, 2009.

Healing a neighbourhood: Potential EU responses to the Syrian refugee crisis

Syria in turmoil

The internal armed conflict in Syria continues endlessly with its cohorts of fleeing people. In addition to an estimated 20,000 civilian deaths, 2.5 million people have been afflicted, 1.2 million internally displaced and nearly 450,000 have sought asylum outside their homeland[1]. By mid-January 2013, the UN estimates that over 4 million people will be in need and the number of refugees will exceed 700,000[2]. Amidst this backdrop, how will Europe respond to the crisis in its neighbourhood?

The facts: How many Syrians fleeing the country and to where?

Neighbouring countries of Syria, except Israel, have assumed the bulk of the refugee burden. Turkey (123,747), Lebanon (97,152), Jordan (94,566) and Iraq (56,982) are accommodating the vast majority and thousands await registration. In North Africa, UNHCR has registered 9,734 Syrian refugees, and tens to hundreds of thousands are claimed to reside without UNHCR registration[3].

Only a tiny proportion of those fleeing Syria have been admitted within European borders. Although total numbers are unknown – due to the particularly clandestine nature of irregular stay and entry, and unavailable EU statistics – some facts regarding Syrians in the EU can be discerned:

  • Syrian asylum applications within Europe have increased since the beginning of the conflict, but remain small (Table 1).
  • The increase in Syrian asylum applications is concentrated in a few countries. Five in the EU (Germany with 8,435 asylum seekers recorded in 2011 and the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2012; Sweden: 3,780; Belgium: 955; the United Kingdom: 915; and Austria: 825) and one outside the EU (Switzerland: 1,745)[4].
  • Recorded Syrian entries to Europe have increased since the beginning of the conflict, but remain small. The vast majority of Syrian entries were recorded at the Greek-Turkey land border (Table 2).
  • There was a negligible increase in Syrians applying for immigration in the EU. In 2010,7,829 Syrians applied for a first permit of residence and 8,106 in 2011 (2012 data is unavailable) indicating that applying for immigration in the EU has not been an access route to Europe for Syrians , at least in the first year of the crisis. Sweden, the only country providing data for 2012, suggests that change may have recently occurred: first residence permits granted in Sweden to Syrian nationals were 140 per month in average in 2010, 167 in 2011, but 274 in 2012 (January – June), almost twice their number before the crisis.

Table 1. Syrian asylum claims in EU by quarter

Quarter Applications
Q1-11 1,510
Q2-11 1,725
Q3-11 2,750
Q4-11 2,935
Q1-12 3,000
Q2-12 4,013
Q3-12 4,560

*Data compiled from EUROSTAT

Table 2. Recorded irregular Syrian entries into Europe by quarter

Quarter Irregular Entries
Q2-11 274
Q3-11 602
Q4-11 614
Q1-12 715
Q2-12 2,024

*Data compiled from Frontex FRAN Quarterly Report, various issues.

The EUs response to the crisis

In addition to political efforts aimed at assisting the Syrian people – i.e. actions that hasten a democratic transition– the EU has taken several actions regarding the crisis:

Humanitarian aid

By 16 November 2012, the EU and its Member States had provided an approximate €288 million in assistance to those within and outside the country.[5]

Granting protection 

Syrian asylum seekers have been granted the highest percentage of positive decisions out of the top 30 nationalities applying for asylum in the EU. EUROSTAT reported that in Q2 2012, 4,390 out of 4,765 applications were positively granted protection – 1,595 refugee status and 2,755 subsidiary protection – meaning that almost all were granted some form of protection.[6] Levels of protection vary across Europe. In Germany, the vast majority of Syrians who apply for asylum are granted subsidiary protection. In Sweden, most Syrians who apply for asylum will automatically be granted a temporary residence permit for three years.[7] Norway and Denmark are granting ‘tolerated stay’ to Syrians. Other countries, like Greece and Eastern European states, have higher rejection rates of Syrian asylum claims when compared to the rest of Europe.[8] Other discussions have focused on providing shelter – albeit temporary – as EU and Greece considered providing shelter, if necessary, for 20,000 Syrian refugees on the islands of Crete and Rhodes.[9] Most EU Member States have refrained from forcibly repatriating Syrians back to their country.[10]

Consideration of a Regional Protection Programme (RPP)
The EU has considered implementing a RPP that could enhance “the capacities of the authorities and of the organisations dealing with international protection and refugee issues with a view to meeting the longer term challenges they will face and providing durable solutions.” [11]

Increased border security
In July 2012, Greece with the assistance of Frontex and the European Asylum Support Office) dispatched 1,800 border guards to the Greek-Turkey Evros border and placed 26 floating barriers along the river. More than 80% of Syrians crossing into Europe in the first quarter of 2012 did so through this border.[12]

Healing a neighbourhood: What other actions could the EU take?

Most countries involved in the conflict are acutely linked to the European Union, not only through Association Agreements, but also through their involvement in a progression towards a more peaceful, stable and prosperous region. At a time when unprecedented changes are occurring in the region, the EU could grasp this situation as an opportunity to show its responsibility to burden sharing and its commitment to mutually improving both shores of the Mediterranean. In order to continue efforts at resolving the Syrian crisis, the EU could:

  • Increase refugee resettlement for those who have been affected by the Syrian crisis and are the most in need. The EU has not publicly acknowledged the need for Syrian resettlement and has instead focused on providing assistance to third host countries. The EU could encourage resettlement as it has done in other refugee-producing conflicts (Iraq).
  • Continue positive asylum procedures throughout the EU, and grant prima facie recognition including provision of sufficient assistance.
  • EASO could take a more active role. EASO could provide and analyse clear data regarding Syrian refugees and coordinate MS’ efforts at providing protection to Syrians. It could in particular advice Member States about the right status to be granted to Syrians and on how to assist Syrians already within the EU.
  • Continue to work with its international partners to find a political and humanitarian solution to the Syrian crisis.

Christine Fandrich, Research Assistant to the MPC

The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response, and the Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department of the European Commission, ECHO.

[2] UN News Centre (9 November 2012) Retrieved from:

[3] UNHCR Syria Regional Refugee Response. See also:  Fick , M. (2012 , October 18). Un: 150,000 syrian refugees have fled to egypt. The Guardian. Retrieved from; and UNHCR. Syria situation regional roundup. (2012, October 23). Retrieved from


[5] For detailed provision of EU humanitarian assistance, see: ECHO Factsheet Syria (16 November 2012).


[7] Migrationsverket. (12 August 2012). Due to the current violence in Syria, many people will be allowed to stay in Sweden. Retrieved from

[8] UNHCR. (2012, October 18). Op. cit.

[9] UNHCR. (2012, October 11). Greece to accommodate syrian refugees on tourist islands. Retrieved from

[10] According to Frontex, “Syrians were not returned in large number (less than 300 persons), but while the numbers were rather stable in most Member States, Greece reported a sharp increase in returns of Syrians as of June 2012” (about 125 people).  Frontex. (2012, October). Fran quarterly issue 2. Retrieved from:

[11] Cyprus Presidency of the Council of the European Union. (2012, October 24). Press release – common european asylum system and regional protection programme for syria on the agenda of jha. Retrieved from

[12] Frontex.

Readmission Policy: where is the carrot though?

The proclaimed new EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (GAMM) presents important contradictions: while it seeks to facilitate and organise the legal mobility of Third Country Nationals and to ensure that TCNs in need of international protection, receive it, it also aims at strong border controls and particularly emphasises readmission policies.  In this short piece we look at past experience on readmission cooperation with Albania and at the current readmission ‘hot potato’ notably cooperation with Turkey.

The readmission of irregular migrants and refugees who entered the EU territory constitutes one of the biggest challenges that EU neighbouring countries are confronted with. There are cases of third countries who have been re-admitting large numbers of irregular migrants (including own nationals) and potential asylum seekers. For instance, the visa liberalization between the EU and Albania, which has been in force since January 2011, has been a ‘reward’ for, among other things, a good record of readmissions of its own nationals from Greece over the years. This is an example of how collaboration works even though considerable policy gaps in the re-integration of readmitted Albanians are identified, e.g. there is hardly any assistance for them to find a job and/or reintegrate in their communities of origin, so that they would not try to cross the border illegally again.

There are, however, also third countries whose readmission record is rather problematic. A case in point is Turkey and its failure to implement the Re-admission Protocol that it has signed nearly a decade ago with Greece. During the period 2006-2010, Greece had filed 3,431 readmission requests to Turkey, in the context of this Protocol, concerning 62,816 people. Of those 7,359 were accepted for readmissions by Turkish authorities, but only 1,281 were effectively re-admitted to Turkey.

It is our contention that a successful readmission policy has to look closer into the political economies of the third country in question, notably Turkey, in order to understand its capacity and eagerness or reluctance to implement the Readmission Protocol and to tackle irregular migration flows with a view of arguing convincingly about the visa facilitation or visa exemption altogether.

The visa liberalization between the EU and Albania, which has been in force since January 2011, mainly offers Albanians the opportunity to seek short-term and seasonal informal work in Greece (Maroukis and Gemi 2011). Indeed such a strategy fits well with the political economy of Albania. Offering its citizens the opportunity to travel legally and work informally in neighbouring Greece eases the pressure from rising unemployment, a welfare regime under pressure and an economy that lacks basic infrastructure for achieving better distributional effects from the insertion of FDI over the last decade in the country.

The case of Turkey is not so straightforward. Commenting on the recent initiative by the Austrian government to discard the requirement of competence in German for Turkish citizens when applying for a residence permit for the purposes of family unification, the Turkish Minister of European Union Affairs Egemen Bağış characteristically stated “they [EU member states] are welcome to go ahead if they plan to carry out some sort of facilitation of the visa process. But what Turkey deserves is a visa exemption[1].

Although the external anchor of EU membership has functioned during most of the 2000s as a powerful incentive for Turkey to proceed with substantial political and economic reforms (Öniş 2012), Turkey’s economic growth record so far has given ground to the ‘’apparently paradoxical conclusion that whether Turkey becomes a member or not will not have such a dramatic impact on the quality of its economic performance and the nature of its democratic regime’’ (Öniş & Bakır 2007: 161-2). However, a key variable behind Turkey’s economic and political (in)stability in the coming years is the way Turkey addresses its developmental and re-distributional challenges.

The highly fragmented and hierarchical corporatist social security system in Turkey providing health and pension benefits only to formally employed individuals coexists with a labour market structure where self-employment, unpaid family labour and informal employment practices are very important (Buğra and Keyder 2006). Part of Turkey’s informal economic activities is migrant smuggling. Significant marginalised segments of Turkish society and marginalised regions (especially in the South-East) have been earning a living from this illegal activity (Triandafyllidou and Maroukis 2012, Danis 2006, Icduygu 2004), alleviating thus the pressure from the re-distributional inequalities (often tinted with political colours, e.g. the Kurdish issue) that the Turkish political economy faces.

For Turkey to engage into an effective readmission policy and for an effective dismantling of irregular migration networks, the EU needs to achieve better knowledge and understanding of how these are intertwined in Turkey’s socio-economic structure. What works with Albania as a visa regime might not work for Turkey. The incentives for Turkey may be different also because the bulk of third country nationals that it would have to re-admit are not its own nationals.  Hence, the carrot that the EU has to offer is a wider regime of visa exemption, plus human resources and technical know-how assistance that would help Turkey build a more effective border management system at the Turkish eastern borders. Such a ‘carrot’ would make the ‘stick’ (notably readmissions and the dismantling of the migrant smuggling networks) worth it and would provide a more durable answer to the challenge of irregular migration flows from Asia to Europe via Turkey and Greece. 

For more information, read: Triandafyllidou, Anna and Maroukis, Thanos (2012) Migrant Smuggling. Irregular migration from Asia and Africa to Europe, London: Palgrave,

Thanos Maroukis, Marie Curie Research Fellow, Bath University

Anna Triandafyllidou, Professor, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute

The views expressed by the authors are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.


A Call for Reform, Expediency and Transparency : MPC’s Response to European Commission’s consultation on non-EU researchers and students

The European Union (EU) still has a long way to go before it is able to make itself the most attractive destination for non-EU researchers and students. This simple conclusion has emerged clearly in the Migration Policy Centre’s (MPC’s) recent response[1] to the European Commission’s open consultation on “The future rules on the entry and residence of non-EU national researchers, students, school pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers in the EU”[2].


One may ask, what is the importance of this consultation? Migration policy, including procedures on visas and residence permits, plays an important role in enabling the access of non-EU students and researchers into the EU. They are also crucial for defining the rights of non-EU nationals and ensure their fair treatment once they reside in the EU. To have a transparent and straightforward migration policy is also important for the EU as it wishes to become the main destination for non-EU researchers and students.

With these objectives in mind, the European Commission conducted the above consultation to evaluate the existing directives governing the entry and residence of third-country nationals (TCNs) students and researchers. The directives in question are – Directive 2004/114[3](the so-called “Students Directive”) and Directive 2005/71 [4](also known as the “Researchers Directive”). These directives affect approximately 81,515 non-EU students[5] and, furthermore, influence the EU’s external migration policy and its dialogue and cooperation with third countries in this area, defined by the EU Global Approach to Migration and Mobility[6](GAMM).

MPC´s response to the consultation has highlighted some of the main shortcomings in the current EU Directives, in particular focusing on the four issues discussed below:

  • Setting a time limit for a Member State to evaluate visa/residence permit applications from TCN researchers or students;
  • Transparency and accountability
  • Access to labour market (both during and after period(s) of study/research)
  • Intra-EU mobility of TCN researchers and students.

Time limit for processing applications

 Firstly, with regards to the visa processing time, the MPC believes that there should be a precise binding time limit for deciding on applications. Currently,  Article 15.1 of the “Researchers Directive” and Article 18.1 of the “Students Directive” are too general and need to be modified. In comparison with the three months deadline for EU Blue Card[7] for highly skilled workers, a maximum duration of one month could be considered appropriate and made binding on Member States for processing applications and delivering the long-term visa (or the residence permit if this is done abroad).

Furthermore, to facilitating visa and residence permit applications, the Commission and Member States should take more care of making information available about the existence of rules facilitating the admission of researchers and students in the EU. A worldwide campaign towards third-country research organisations, universities and ministries involving the embassies and consulates of Member States could be envisaged.

Transparency and accountability

A major concern that has been brought to the forefront by the MPC response is the issue is the discussion of transparency and accountability in the visa processing stage. The MPC believes that Article 14 of the “Researchers Directive” and Article 18 of the “Students Directive” should be modified to oblige immigration authorities to notify their reasons in case they refuse an application. This would further enhance the transparency in the process and boost a credible image of the issuing authorities.

In addition, it must be stressed that infringement procedures should be launched without any further delay against Member States applying different rules than the directives for the delivery of visas or a two steps procedure (one for the admission and one for the delivery of the visa). The delivery of residence permits abroad through consulates and, consequently, the abolition of long-term visas for the category of temporary migrants such as students could be considered as one possible option to facilitate their admission in the EU.

Access to labour market

On the discussion of access to labour market for non-EU students and researchers, there are two topics that emerge in the debate. One is allowing access to labour market during research/study period and another issue is allowing access after the period of research or study is over.

With regards to researchers, MPC proposes that they should be allowed to do some accessory paid work in direct relation with their research project during their research period, like writing articles in scientific reviews, giving conferences or consultancy, etc.  For students, during their study period there should be a threshold of up to a minimum of 20 hours per week while no limit should be put during periods of holidays (if the student has made acceptable progress in his/her studies). The rationale is that such accessory work would provide both students and researchers with a significant amount of experience and academic credentials. It is also important to highlight that work during study is an essential source of financial support for many students who do not receive scholarships. Therefore, access to work for students and researchers should be facilitated (exempted of labor market test and even of work permit).

After completion of studies, TCN students and researchers should be allowed to stay in the EU for a limited period of time. For researchers, a temporary extension of one year should be given to enable them to start a new research project, engage in other work or establish a company. Students should be allowed to stay for a maximum of two years after their graduation. Both of these proposals are legitimate as long as the person does not become an unreasonable burden for the social assistance system of the concerned Member State and there is no brain drain problem with the country of origin of the researcher/student.

Intra-EU mobility

Intra-EU mobility has always been a thorny issue for non-EU students and researchers as every EU Member State has different immigration rules concerning it. To facilitate short-term mobility, MPC proposes that a long-term visa delivered to a researcher or student should be valid for the maximum of one year as envisaged by Regulation 265/2010[8], unless the duration of the research or study is shorter (in this case, the long-term visa should be valid for the duration of the research project). This should facilitate the mobility of researchers and students into the EU and towards their country of origin, as the Member States are obliged by the same regulation to replace long-term visas by a residence permit before the visas expire.

The provisions on student mobility could be further improved, by removing the obligation for the student to prove that the studies in the second Member State is a part of or complementary to the studies for which the student has been admitted by the first Member State. The system of the simple declaration instead of a proof (as applied to EU students by Directive 2004/38[9] for the condition of financial resources) could also be applied to the case of the mobility of TCN students.

Finally, the important question that emerges is that for students admitted into one EU Member State, should they be allowed to move and study in another Member State without requiring a new residence permit? Such a possibility already exists for studies of less than three months on the basis of the Schengen acquis[10]. Furthermore, the technique of mutual recognition of residence permits could also be used as long as the residence permit delivered by the first Member State is valid. This would reduce unnecessary hassle and stress for students who would otherwise have to apply for separate residence permits in each Member State. This would also be a clear political sign from the EU that they want to favor the mobility of students.

Other suggestions:

–          Research organisations and universities should be strongly encouraged to appoint liaison officers who would be a contact point for researchers/students and immigration authorities and, when necessary, would inform and assist researchers/students with their immigration procedures.

–         Member States could prepare a leaflet in several languages explaining the facilitations offered to researchers regarding immigration procedures. This leaflet should cover the issue of mobility rights in order to explain clearly their rights and how it works in practice. These leaflets should be made available in consulates and also be sent to the research organisations that Member States have approved under the “Researchers Directive” for dissemination to researchers getting in touch with them.

–          The border between the notions of “PhD students” and “researchers” should be made clear for the users. The criterion is related to the payment of the person: a student is unpaid. Therefore, paid PhD students should be treated as researchers under the “Researchers Directive” (so that they would not need a work permit) as long as they are compensated in money for the work they do for the research organisation. For the rest, it seems difficult to treat unpaid PhD students like researchers because of the risk of abuse of the system.

–          Except for universities based in UK, France and Germany which are widely publicised, there is only limited promotion of other universities from EU Member States. The Commission should make sure that all necessary information about the universities from Member States is accessible through the EU Immigration Portal[11]. In particular, the Commission should check that information about the minimum amount of resources that a TCN should have, is easily accessible.

–          On the basis of the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice of the EU in the case of Commission v. Netherlands of 26 April 2012[12], the Commission should launch without any further delay infringement procedures against Member States requiring disproportionate fees for the delivery of long-term visas or residence permits to students.

In conclusion, the MPC considers that the EU and its Member States should take more care about the treatment of persons that they invite within the purview of EU-financed programmes. Specific procedures involving the Commission and Member States (in particular consulates) should be put in place to make sure that immigration procedures run smoothly and bona fide researchers and students are really treated as welcome guests in the EU. This is essential for a good public image of the EU and would also help in promoting it as an attractive destination for non-EU students and researchers.

Neha Sinha, Policy Analyst to the MPC

Philippe De Bruycker, Deputy Director of the MPC

Acknowledgment: Special thanks to Ashley McCormick, Research Assistant to the MPC, for his kind assistance with the statistical data.

[1] Please note that the MPC responses to EU consultations are not to be taken as scientific research findings but only as well informed opinions

[2] European Commission’s consultation questionnaire on “The future rules on the entry and residence of non-EU national researchers, students, school pupils, unremunerated trainees and volunteers in the EU”



[5] Source: EUROSTAT Database



[8] Amendment to the ConventionImplementing the Schengen Agreement and Regulation (EC) No. 562/2006 as regards movement of persons with a long-stay visa

[9] Directive defining the Right of citizens of the Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the Member States


[11] (3)

[12] For further details of the case, visit:

Some Thoughts about the Yearly Report of the European Commission on Immigration and Asylum

The first thing even before reading the 3rd edition of this report on the year 2011[1] is to remember its origin. It goes back to the Pact on immigration and asylum concluded in 2008 under the French Presidency. The idea was then to have a report about the implementation of this Pact in order to feed the annual debate about migration policies that the European Council was supposed to have at its June meeting.

After 2 editions of the report following the order of the commitments subscribed by the EU and its Member States in the Pact, the 2011 edition changes as announced by the Commission in 2009 in its communication on a tracking method for monitoring the implementation of the pact. But, strange enough, the pact is not even anymore mentioned! Moreover, the report has not been the object of the strategic debate envisaged in the European Council. This tells us something about the (in)coherence of policy-making even at EU level even when it is about the main priorities defined by the Member States themselves. It is probably also one of the consequences of the financial crisis of the Eurozone attracting all the attention of the Heads of State and Government during their meetings.

The report and especially its annex appear to be a long catalogue listing what has been achieved during the past year and what is coming up in the future. One may have the impression that the usefulness of such exercise is limited: the information provided is indeed mainly descriptive and cannot be considered as an evaluation of results. Actually, the report and in particular its long annex based on contributions of the European Migration Network and from the Member States provides to the reader a lot of information that are not (easily) accessible. It nevertheless true that it does not allow to measure the progress of the EU in the development of an immigration and asylum policy; in particular, it does not replace the scoreboard on the implementation of the five-years programme for Justice, Liberty and Security (currently the Stockholm programme) that was compiled about the implementation of the Tampere conclusions and The Hague programme but has mysteriously disappeared, unless it survives secretly as an internal document which would not really be a progress in the field of transparency…

The general tone of the report is a bit unclear. It starts with a frightening introduction where the reader is told that there is an “increasing migratory pressure” plus a “misuse of visa liberalisation” (page2) and continues with a positive statement about the impact of labor migration despite the economic crisis (page 4), a confirmation of the migratory pressures burdening the EU despite the small numbers of migrants quoted to support this statement (page 8), a call for a balanced debate not dominated only by anti-immigration rhetoric (page 17), the denunciation of the image of Fortress Europe as a caricature (page 17) before concluding with putting the emphasis on the roadmap on migratory pressure adopted by the Council in April 2012 (page 18) which actually refers us to the introduction…

The list of what has been achieved shows that 2011 has been a quite productive year as illustrated by the following examples (despite the weaknesses that we will personally underline in brackets).

Among the legislative instruments adopted, one will notice:

  • the directive on the single permit and common rights of labor migrants (finally!);
  • the amendment of the Frontex regulation of 2004 reinforcing the powers of that European Agency;
  • an updated version of the anti-trafficking directive;
  • the legal basis for the European Agency for the Operational Management of Large IT Systems in the area of freedom, security and justice;
  • the recast of the qualification directive defining the persons who can benefit from international protection in the EU which is the first piece of the Common European Asylum System to be finalised in 2012.

Regarding the legislative package on asylum that is still the object of negotiations between Council and Parliament that are difficult but in progress, one will notice with surprise that the Commission remained silent on the historical decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the MSS case about the malfunctioning of the Dublin system (maybe was it the best option to avoid to underline that an external Court puts order in the EU despite its commitments towards human rights…).

Some tools have been put in place:

  •  the Immigration Portal launched on internet;
  • the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) that started to function (very) progressively;
  • Rabits (Rapid Border Intervention Teams) and Asylum Support Teams designed to help Member States that have been experienced on the ground for the very first time in Greece;
  • a new (rather weak) agenda on integration adopted by the Commission.

Regarding the external dimension, one will notice that:

  • the VIS (Visa Information System) has been launched for the Northern African region and should reinforce the visa policy and the fight against illegal immigration;
  • one more (out of today only 4 in total) mobility partnership has been concluded with Armenia (is this country really a priority one?)
  • a Regional Protection Programme has been launched in Northern Africa (let us wait and see where it will lead as the results of the two firsts regional protection programmes are mitigated)

On the side of evaluation:

  • the readmission policy has been happily analysed in a very critical way (probably to underline at the attention of the Member States the problems encountered by the Commission during negotiations with third countries);
  • the transposition of the directive on long term residents has been the object of a report showing that it had a weak impact with only 2000 persons having acquired this status in France and Germany (true to say that the advantages of this more or less European status are not obvious);
  • the pilot study on integration indicators has (finally) been finalised by Eurostat (seven years after the Common Basic principles adopted by the Council underlined their importance…)
  • a green paper on family reunification has been launched after long hesitations of the Commission due to the (really difficult) political climate opposed to immigration.

Among the impressive pending initiatives that have been prepared by the Commission in 2011, apart of the proposals for a directive on seasonal migration and intra-corporate transferees that are still under negotiations showing that legal migration remains definitely one of the most difficult issues to deal with Member States still defending in the Council of Ministers the rest of their sovereignty in this area, let us mention:

  • the Eurosur proposal related to the fight against illegal immigration in particular through sea;
  • the launch of negotiations for mobility partnerships with Tunisia and Morocco but not Egypt (finally the serious business with important Southern third countries of emigration will start) that will be difficult due to the conditionality that the EU and its Member want to impose;
  • the proposals for external agreements on the portability of social rights (a very important issue finally taken into consideration)
  • the two new funds (one for asylum & migration and the other for internal security including borders) for an envisaged budget of 8,4 billions of Euros during the period 2014-20 instead of 3,9 billions for the four existing funds which is an extremely significant increase (but let us wait and see for the results of the negotiations on the EU budget)

Some future initiatives have also been announced:

  • a merge of the two directives on students of 2004 and researchers of 2005 (could students benefit from this joint package with researchers whom have been the object of a really innovative instrument?);
  • Smart (for whom?) Borders with two new databases (the Exit/Entry System to increase control on illegal immigration and the Registered Traveler Programme to facilitate the travel of bona fide persons);
  • guidelines on temporary permits after the passage of illegal migrants from Tunisia to France with the help of Italy that delivered “humanitarian” residence permits (a weak instrument proposed but a possible interesting step forward in the competences of Member States)
  • a green paper on economic migration (that will lead to a very difficult but necessary debate to relaunch the agenda in this field where the last outdated Commission action plan dates of 2005). 

It is also interesting to have a look inside but also outside the report to what has not been (well) done:

  • the apparent lack of ambition of Member States in the transposition of the Blue card directive aiming at facilitating the admission of highly skilled workers (as the Member States had to transpose this directive for 2011, let us hope that the Commission will deliver on time that kind of report on 19 June 2014 as foreseen, which is already quite late if it is about putting political pressure on the Member States).
  • an evaluation of the Global approach to migration which has been the object of an interesting but curious Communication of the Commission looking forward instead of backwards;
  • the field of migration and development presented as a priority but where concrete progress is quite limited since years regarding brain drain, diasporas and remittances, without even speaking of the (indeed very difficult) subject of the recognition of third country degrees hold by migrants. This is actually the only part of the Global approach that has been the object of an evaluation of its results in a staff working document of the Commission[2].

Finally, which lessons can we draw from this report for the future?

Firstly, the Commission underlines rightly that it is necessary to implement the existing instruments before imagining new ones. This advice (that does not really flow from the content of the report but is obviously wise) will nevertheless be difficult to implement if serious progress is not made about the evaluation of the effects of instruments. The EU needs to shift from basic quantitative to real qualitative evaluations by devoting to ex-post evaluations the same attention to ex-ante so called “impact assessments”. Let us hope that the current violent fight engaged by the Parliament against the Council about the Schengen evaluation mechanism will not be only one more inter-institutional battle distracting the attention from the substance of evaluation (also because the Parliament has taken a wrong legal position in that debate).

Secondly, the occasion that the EU has missed towards the Arab countries undergoing revolutions in 2011: instead of showing them consideration in the (indeed difficult) debate on migration and imagining at least to offer them facilitations for the delivery of short term visas in the future, the EU sinked into a debate about the possibility for Member States to reintroduce internal border controls in the Schengen area. This was not only a false debate (the real issue is obviously about the effectiveness of external border controls), but also an internal debate during which we forgot our neighbors. The fact that the Commissioner in charge of Home Affairs admits courageously this historical mistake in her speech at the opening session of the Migration Policy Centre in Florence[3] does not bow out that the Commission obeys nowadays to the Heads of State or Government by preparing a proposal that raises several legal questions of compatibility with the treaties.

This story is unfortunately one more occasion to underline what is cruelly missing in the European Union: solidarity between Member States without which it is impossible to build the common policies on visas, borders, immigration and asylum requested by the Treaty of Lisbon adopted by the same Member States…

 Philippe De Bruycker, Deputy Director of the MPC

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] Document COM(2012) 250 of 30 May 2012:



The Syrian Refugee Crisis: A Common EU Response Needed

Towards civil war or conflict resolution?

The conflict in Syria has quickly escalated and prospects for peace – let alone peaceful regime change – seem unlikely. The human death toll is unknown. Accounts from the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights claim over 17,000Syrian deaths (11,897 civilians, 4,348 soldiers and 884 military defectors).[1] The UN estimates that more than 10,000 people have been killed in Syria and tens of thousands displaced.[2]   

Although the conflict has continued for 17 months, the beginnings of a downward spiral can be discerned. In the past month alone, there have been a number of army desertions, and high-ranking military and political officers have defected. International leaders, the UN, and the Arab League have implemented sanctions, and have called for a transitional government to replace Assad. The US, the EU, and certain Arab states have also been assisting the Syrian rebels – whether monetarily, or with weapons. The Syrian rebels, however, do not form a coherent group, as forces are divided between the Free Syrian Army and the salasfists, and attacks against the government have not yet led to a significant weakening of the regime. 

Although initially wounding – particularly after the assassinations of four high-profile members of the regime – outcomes of Syrian rebel-led operations against the government remain unclear. If the rebellion is successful, could Assad fall? Would civil war, particularly between the new regime and potentially marginalized minority groups or Assad loyalists, follow? Syria’s complex communal context could turn any of its religious or linguistic groups into a target for violence: alongside a large Sunni majority, sizeable minorities comprise Shias (2 million, including Alawites), Christians (1.5 million), Druze (0.5 million), non-Arab Kurds (2 million), Palestinian refugees (close to 0.5 million), and Iraqi refugees (unknown number, possibly close to 100,000). If unsuccessful, could the regime unleash all the military powers of the state, leading to more deaths and refugee outflows?

Refugee movement gaining momentum: Neighbours of Syria host the vast majority of refugees

As the rebel strikes intensify, and as the Syrian government responds with more retaliatory violence, thousands of refugees pour over Syrian borders. On 20 July, and within 48 hours, the UNHCR witnessed a doubling of the Syrian refugee population in Lebanon, with perhaps 30,000 Syrians crossing to Lebanon[3] – within one day’s time, it observed more than 3,000 Syrians flee into Iraq.[4] 

Numbers of refugees assisted by UNHCR have almost tripled in three months from 45,633 on 18 April 2012 to 117,087 – with another 5,000 awaiting registration – on 24 July 2012. The vast majority have fled to neighbouring countries: on 24 July 2012, 42,682 were registered in Turkey; 35,911 in Jordan; 31,004 in Lebanon; and 7,490 in Iraq.[5] UNHCR and other global and local NGOs are working within these countries to provide basic needs support and essential services; however, services are increasingly limited, and access to basic needs and services is allocated unevenly or unattainable throughout countries of asylum. Israel is the only among Syria’s neighbours where no Syrian has yet tried to find shelter, but human rights movements have warned that its government should respect the principle of non-refoulement and not turn back those who may flee across its border.[6]

Turkey at the external border of the EU: Europe receiving more entries of Syrian refugees

As the numbers of Syrians escaping into neighbouring countries increases, numbers fleeing to Europe are also on the rise. Germany, the EU MS with the largest number of Syrian asylum applications, witnessed the number of Syrian asylum applications double within the first five months of 2012, from 295 in January to 615 in May, totalling 2,155 in this time period alone (compared with and 2,030 Syrian claims in 2010, and 3,440 in all of 2011). Sweden comes next with 865 Syrian claims from January through May 2012 (compared with 450 claims in 2010, and 635 in 2011).[7]

Asylum applications filed by Syrians in Europe as a whole have markedly increased. From January to May 2012 alone, 5,370 asylum applications have been filed throughout EU Member States, and Norway and Switzerland – almost equalling the total number of Syrian applications in the entire year of 2010 (5,575). This number is undoubtedly much higher as not all MS have reported all numbers of applications, making it extremely likely that this number will soon surpass total Syrian applications filed in 2011 (8,920).[8] 

Frontex data also indicates an increase of Syrians detected as illegally crossing into Europe, as their number increased by almost six-fold within Quarter 1 (January 2012 through March 2012), with 715 entries, when compared to Quarter 1 2011 (126 entries) – the vast majority of which (83%) were detected at the Greek-Turkey border.[9]  First, it must be noted that not all those entering Europe without the proper documents are detected; and second, that while refugee camps in Turkey have been established close to the Syrian border, most Syrian refugees outside camps seem to be staying in Istanbul, i.e. close to the land border of Europe, which many of them may wish to reach.

Needs for designing a proper status

Although most EU MS have suspended forced return to Syria of Syrian nationals being in an irregular situation, there has been no decision or initiative at the EU level to prepare and organise a common or harmonised response to the arrival and stay of refugees from Syria in Europe since the beginning of the crisis more than 17 months ago.

As activating temporary protection status for Syrian nationals within the EU (as was recommended by UNHCR and the EU Parliament during the Libyan crisis) seems highly unlikely, the EU could opt for a common response to harmonise the receiving conditions and the protection of Syrian nationals in EU member states. EU institutions could commit themselves to the following:

*Ensure that no Syrian nationals are brought back to Syria or pushed back at the EU border;

*Ensure that Syrian nationals have the possibility to apply for asylum when they enter an EU territory;

*Facilitate the application procedures to reduce delays;

*Ensure that Syrian applicants all receive a protection status – either subsidiary (protection, which can be renewed or revoked based on risk of harm, to someone who does not qualify for refugee status, yet risks serious harm in returning to their country) or convention-based (protection granted to those who meet the UN definition of a refugee) – according to national regulations and individual situations.

During the Libyan crisis, the EU fundamentally failed to organise solidarity at the intra-EU level or to exemplify burden-sharing with its neighbourhood. The Syrian crisis is a second opportunity for the EU to unfold its capacity to: offer a common and collective response to refugee crises; to use and foster the respect of its acquis in regards to asylum and refugee protection; and to ensure that Syrian nationals on its territory are offered a proper protection.

Christine Fandrich, Research Assistant to the MPC

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] “Activist group says Syrian death toll over 17,000.” Reuters, 10 Jul 2012. Web. 23 Jul 2012.

[2] UN News Centre. “Syria: Ban alarmed by intensifying violence, condemns attack on government building.” UN News Centre, 18 Jul 2012. Web. 23 Jul 2012.  

[3] “Les habitants de Damas affluent au Liban, la peur au ventre”, L’Orient-Le Jour, 21 Jul. 2012

[4]  BBC News. “Syria crisis: Thousands of refugees flee violence.” BBC News. 20 Jul 2012. Web. 23 Jul 2012. 

[5] Syrian Regional Refugee Response: Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey 20 July 2012, pg. 1.

[6] Amnesty International: Israel must protect Syrian refugees, The Jerusalem Post,, 21 July 2012 



[9] Frontex, FRAN Q1, 2012.

Mobility Partnerships – what impact do they have on legal migration and mobility?

Mobility Partnerships (MPs) have been promoted as a flagship tool of the EU’s Global Approach to Migration for five years now. They have been signed with Cape Verde, the Republicof Moldova, Georgiaand Armenia– all countries of rather discreet migratory impact on the EU. All the political evaluations to date[1] show that MPs are an effective tool to enhance international cooperation as well as introduce more coherence in the internal governance of migration in the sending country. According to participating governments and the European Commission, the MPs have been critical to get state officials together around one table and force them to think about their migration policies and to cooperate, also on the issues of legal migration and mobility. But what impact do MPs have on legally mobile migrants and migrant workers? On societies? On labour markets?

The expectations for increased mobility have been very high, but they still have not been fulfilled, to the point that in the academic circles this instrument is sarcastically called ‘Immobility Partnerships’. Is the criticism justified? What should we do next with the tool? Can it be saved, and most importantly – should it be?

I. What are we talking about when discussing legal migration and mobility in the EU context?

Legal migration and mobility in the EU policy language, as presented inter alia in the Third Report on Immigration and Asylum (SWD (2012)179 final) is quite a fuzzy concept. It includes such varied phenomena as economic migration, skills recognition, family reunification, integration, and prevention of illegal migration (e.g. awareness raising campaigns, Frontex activities and Schengen governance).

In the Communication on the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (COM(2011) 743 final) we read that mobility of third country nationals across the external EU borders applies to several categories of people, all bona fide travellers: e.g. students and researchers rarelly migrate, they are just mobile. Mobility is therefore linked to visa policy and can be interpreted as such. Moreover mobility can be enhanced by policies removing obstacles to movement e.g. institutional obstacles (portability of rights, avoidance of double taxation etc.).

II. Legal migration and mobility in Mobility Partnerships to the date

Until now it is quite clear that MPs have focused only on a few aspects of the European Commission’s concept of legal migration and mobility, namely: prevention of illegal migration and border governance. Less attention has been paid to economic migration, portability of rights or skills recognition. Other issues as family reunification or integration in the destination countries have been largely disregarded. Unfortunately the majority of the EU Member States involved in the MPs have not been generous enough to propose real change under this umbrella; instead, many decided to offer already existing legal migration bilateral schemes as their contribution to legal migration part of MPs.

Apart from the fact that the avenues of legal migration have not been really open[2], the institutional changes helping people to be mobile have not materialized either. First, visa policy has not been used fully in this case. Visa facilitation with Cape Verde, initially almost blocked by the EU Member States in the EU Council, has been signed with considerable delay, because inter alia of tough requirements of the readmission agreement. However a Common Visa Application Centre in Cape Verde is another example of facilitated mobility.[3]

III. What is the future of legal migration and mobility in Mobility Partnerships?

If we want to keep the concept, the partners need to decisively improve the component of legal migration and mobility. To achieve this, partners should focus on one major challenge: the value added. In other words – what makes the partnerships a valuable tool over the existing bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the area of legal migration and mobility? What will make ordinary people more mobile?

1) Targeted change in the legal order

The clear value added of a Mobility Partnership on the level of aMember State is when this Member State changes its legal order to accommodate a mobility of a national of the partner third country. There are only two examples to date that clearly illustrate this: (1) a Polish initiative opening its labour market to the temporary labour migration from the countries which signed the MP; (2) the German initiative to offer to its long-term residents the possibility of return to home country for extended periods of time (up to 2 years) without losing the residence rights. These are pretty direct and straightforward initiatives that bring more value into the MPs.

Other mobility enhancers have included agreements on portability of rights. The importance of MPs for completing these agreements is less obvious as it is not clear that they would not have taken place hadn’t it been for the MPs. This leads to the next point.

2) Going beyond the bilateral relations

Bilateral relations are clearly the best setting to solve migration management issues.

Due to the division of competences, the EU cannot address the most common requirements which have been put forward by prospective partners: economic migration channels, skills recognition, or integration policy. These are domains of the EU Member States. And thus the Mobility Partnership must be in this case a sum of offers of participating Member States. To the date, all 27 have never signed up for one MP. This is often seen as a weakness of the instrument, but is it really? When a Tunisian official wants economic migration channels to the EU, he surely does not mean sending Tunisians toBulgariaorLatvia, rather toFranceorItaly. Does he need a MP to do this? Certainly not. Of course, one may argue, there is a rationale for including bilateral agreements into the MP – when a bilateral legal migration scheme withFrancewill makeTunisiacooperate with other EU Member States on the issues of illegal migration. However, usually illegal and legal flows tend to end in the same destination.

To give the MPs more value added, the legal migration and mobility should go beyond bilateral relations. Participating Member States should think about multilateral initiatives, which bring a real EU dividend. These can be proposed by two actors: by a group of the cooperating Member States and by the European Commission

3) Legal migration and mobility of Mobility Partnership country nationals – what can the EU Member States do?

One idea would be the creation of partially-open labour markets created between two or more EU Member States, where the nationals of a Mobility Partnership country could find employment in specific sectors (e.g. seasonal workers harvesting different crops throughout the season), and could be jobseekers freely circulating across the borders to this end. The system could be created on the basis of a multilateral treaty between the involved EU member States and the Mobility Partnership country. In addition, these mini-zones would assure that all the rights acquired in different MSs add up and can be taken with the migrant to his/her next EU destination or back home.

Another way of changing the status quo and rewarding the partner country would be to introduce, besides EU preference, a Mobility Partnership preference on the labour market.

4) Legal migration and mobility of Mobility Partnership country nationals –what can the European Commission do?

The EU should bring what it has at hand: mobility understood as visa policy. It has been clearly proposed in the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility and this should be supported. Especially visa liberalisation is a highly worthwhile tool creating a real partnership. The experience of Visa Liberalisation Dialogues withMoldovaandUkraineshows how some countries can implement the EU requirements for secure environment and thus cut short the worries about the negative consequences of enhanced mobility.

When visa liberalisation for all is impossible, it should be considered for certain categories of people. Again, one can say that with the development of the EU Registered Traveller Programme the obstacles to mobility will hopefully diminish. However, this solution is devised for all the countries in the world and hence, there needs to be something extra for the MP countries in it.

Another possibility is to follow the already established path for coordination of social security systems between the EU and Associated Countries[4] and offer the same solution to the Mobility Partnership countries, e.g. while testing the proposed EU Social Security Agreements.[5]

IV. Concluding remarks

Mobility Partnerships are still the tools-in-the-making and we need to give them time, as it usually happens in international cooperation. It would be unfair to sentence MPs right now. But it is reasonable to expect that they keep on improving and developing in the right direction with more elements that fulfil their main promise: more mobility to the ordinary people. This includes more of special treatment of the nationals of the partner third countries: more innovative visa facilitation instruments, more visa liberalisation, and more real labour migration.

Agnieszka Weinar, Scientific Coordinator of CARIM East and MIGMEDCIS

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily the views of the Migration Policy Centre.

[1] Commission (2009). Mobility Partnerships as a tool of the Global Approach to Migration. SEC (2009) 1240.

[2] The few examples include small circular migration schemes betweenCzech Republic andGeorgia,Portugal andCape Verde orFrance’s programme for young professionals – all involving relatively limited number of people (the data on how many exactly is not publicly available).

[3] E.g. an applicant does not need to travel to another country in order to apply for a visa even if the Schengen state he/she wants to travel to is not represented in his home country.

[4] See e.g. 2010/697/EU Council Decision of 21 October 2010 on the position to be taken by the European Union within the Association Council set up by the Euro-Mediterranean Agreement establishing an association between the European Communities and their Member States, of the one part, and the Kingdom of Morocco, of the other part, with regard to the adoption of provisions on the coordination of social security systems. Other draft proposals available in the OJ of the EU, L 306, Volume 53, 23 November 2010.

[5]  As proposed by the European Commission in its Communication on the External Dimension of the EU Social Security Coordination. COM(2012)153 final

India-EU Student mobility – A Win-Win Opportunity for the EU?


  • Education services industry has a global turnover of up to 90 billion dollars.
  • International student fees assist in financing the higher education sector in host countries.
  • According to available statistics present with UNESCO, there were 51566 Indian students in Europe in the year 2009 of which 34065 were based in UK.
  • According to a large number of studies, Indian students are amongst the best and the most highly achieving studentsespecially in the fields of IT, engineering, medicine and biological sciences
  • Providing better employment opportunities for Indian graduates from EU-based universities should be seen as a mutually beneficial arrangement as it addresses the growing skills shortage in the OECD countries as well as provides strong incentives for Indian students to choose EU countries for higher education.
  • Financial feasibility of foreign education and employment prospects are the driving forces for Indian students in European (non-English speaking) countries.
  • Steps should be taken to reduce the high monetary impact on Indian students by providing scholarships to meritorious students with conditions regarding their return to India.
  • European universities should implement a mechanism of integration to assist Indian students to bridge the cultural and language gaps in host (non-English speaking) EU countries.


Education is an important area of cooperation for both India and the European Union (EU). India-EU strategic partnership in education has been further strengthened through the revision of the Joint Action Plan (JAP) in 2008 which addressed the issue of student migration, education and academic exchange (Mukherjee and Chanda 2012:1) Apart from promoting positive bilateral relations between the two economic powers, promoting student mobility is also mutually beneficial in terms of the huge economic incentive it provides. A profit-churning industry with a global turnover of up to 90 billion dollars (Mukherjee and Chanda 2012: x), education services is a sector that the EU should promote further in the coming decades.  

Indian students abroad

Since the past ten years, there has been a remarkable rise in the number of Indian students pursuing higher education outside India. India is one of the key markets targeted by the leading providers of higher education. India has grown considerably in terms of its contribution in the international students market and is the second most important source country after China[i]. Even though the US is till the top destination for Indian students (53.6% of Indian students abroad chose to study in the US in 2009[ii]), its market share has drastically reduced since 2000 mainly because of stricter immigration policies post 9/11.

On one hand, the percentage of Indian students in the US has reduced, but on the other hand, a combination of political and economic developments has promoted Indian students to seek Europe, in particular UK, as a destination for higher education. UK has attracted over 17 % of Indian students in 2009[iii], becoming the second most important destination after the US. It has been the most preferred destination for Indian students in Europe due to four reasons – colonial heritage leading to a long standing relationship between UK and India; presence of reputed institutions of higher education; Indian students’ preference to study in programmes taught in English; and the presence of a large Indian diaspora in UK providing a ‘home-away-from-home’. However, UK education comes with some disadvantages as well which includes its high cost such as premium tuition fees coupled with sky-high living expenses.  

In such a situation, other European countries are slowly gaining favour amongst the Indian student community, especially countries such as France and Germany.  In addition, Indian students also fulfil the shortage created by low EU student enrolment in science and engineering courses. According to a survey carried out by the Erasmus Mundus programme[iv], students from India usually do not perceive the EU as a single entity and see differences in between member countries with regard to living costs, tuition fees, facilities provided, visa regulations, work permit regulations, quality and teaching methods. Mainland/continental European countries are slowly gaining favour among the Indian community for higher education because of cheaper tuition costs, availability of scholarships and growth in programmes taught in English.

UK has recently changed its immigration policy and removed its post-study work visa (PSW) route for non-EU nationals. This visa was an essential incentive for non-EU students to come to UK as it allowed them to work in UK for 2 years (without a need for a sponsor) after they graduate from a UK university. With the change in immigration policies in UK, it is a crucial time for other European host countries to gain momentum and attract more Indian students to join their higher education establishments.

Essential aspects for promoting India-EU student mobility:

  • Scholarships – Scholarships, such as those provided through the Erasmus Mundus Programme, need to be increased to provide financial assistance to meritorious Indian students. These should be given with conditions regarding the students’ return to India.
  • Employment – employment policies need to be made more flexible to fill labour market shortages in the EU and give an opportunity for Indian students graduating from EU-based universities to gain work experience. Internships and employment through tie-ups with European companies based in India can act as an incentive.
  • Student exchange programmes – Partnerships between Indian and EU-based universities need to be promoted so that there is exchange of students, faculty members and researchers between the two regions.
  • Advertising and Marketing – Strategic promotion has to be conducted in India to promote European universities and improve visibility of programmes taught in English through education fairs,  virtual discussions on online student forums, etc.
  • Flexible visa and immigration policies – policies tackling illegal migration should not affect genuine students and a special visa facilitation system should be introduced for students to make the visa process more standardized and simplified across the EU.
  • Integration mechanism –language training and cultural workshops need to be conducted (both pre-course training as well as later upon arrival in host country) to alleviate cultural and language barriers.

Indian students, along with the rest of the international student community, pay premium fees for studying in countries such as USA or UK which can be almost three times the amount charged to local students (Lall 2008 cited in Mukherjee and Chanda 2012:3). Not only is the income generated through these fees beneficial for the host country economies , but the presence of meritorious Indian students also creates a healthy competition amongst the student community and raises the performance standards of host universities (Khadria 2001 cited in Mukherjee and Chanda 2012:3). In the present globalised world, the EU needs to make sure that it promotes student mobility through specialized education policy framework, which can in turn maintain EU’s competitive edge at the global level and fulfil the predicted labour market shortage in specialised sectors. 

The MPC Team

[i] UNESCO database on International students at tertiary level (ISCED 5 and 6) cited in Mukherjee and Chanda 2012: 6

[ii] UNESCO database on International students at tertiary level (ISCED 5 and 6) cited in Mukherjee and Chanda 2012: 8

[iii] UNESCO database on International students at tertiary level (ISCED 5 and 6) cited in Mukherjee and Chanda 2012: 13

[iv] Survey titled ‘Perceptions of European Higher Education in Third Countries’ cited in Lall, M. (2006) Indian Students in Europe: Trends, Constraints and Prospects – Living in ‘the Age of migration’, Briefing Paper for the Academic Network for European Research on India


Mukherjee, S. and Chanda, R. (2012) Indian Student Mobility to European Countries: An Overview, CARIM-India Research Report 2012, Migration Policy Center (MPC), Florence, Italy

Lall, M. (2006) Indian Students in Europe: Trends, Constraints and Prospects – Living in ‘the Age of migration’, Briefing Paper for the Academic Network for European Research on India

Note: This brief is largely based on MPC’s research report titled ‘Indian Student Mobility to European Countries: An Overview’, CARIM-India Research Report 2012, written by Shahana Mukherjee and Rupa Chanda