Migration Myths: Migration & Unemployment

There are many populist myths surrounding migration. One that is commonly shared is migrants moving, en masse, into so called ‘richer’ countries irrespective of the job market. The rationale follows that with more immigrants rising unemployment ensues. To date there is no strong evidence to support such claims. Contrary facts highlight a lack of evidence to such assertions. A basic and telling example is a simple pair of correlations which highlight the relationship between overall immigration levels and unemployment. Each EU country with sufficient data has two correlations; pre-recession and recession. Although correlations cannot claim a causal link between two events (A causes B), what they can do is signal any potential links between two phenomena. In this case there is a clear, consistent and telling set of trends.

Figure 1 shows correlations for 23 EU member states. The greyed area signals weak correlations, hence little can be taken from such results i.e. Sweden, Belgium and the United Kingdom.  There are two types of country. In figure 1 from Finland to Belgium all pre-recession and recession correlations highlight a negative correlation between unemployment and immigration. In short, there are two ways at interpreting these results: (1) the higher the rate of unemployment the lower the rate of immigration: unemployment deters potential migrants; (2) rising immigration lowers the levels of unemployment: immigration generates net employment. Correlations cannot claim to prove either hypothesis but the consistency in these 16 country results does signal a widespread and linked relationship between rising unemployment and decreasing immigration or vice versa. The second type shows a pre-recession positive correlation between unemployment and immigration in the cases of France, Luxembourg, Austria, Hungary and Cyprus. Prior to the recession claims could be made that rising unemployment and immigration were linked. Once the recession occurred all of these countries saw a shift to negative correlations. France shifted to a weak negative correlation whereas the remaining countries moved to significant negative correlations. In all cases there are negative correlations after the recession – unemployment and immigration are negatively linked, a rise in one means a fall in the other.

Germany is an important and ‘average’ example of negative correlations in both pre-recession and recession times, with all results baselined to quarter 1 of 2012. In both time periods when there is a decrease in unemployment (red line) there is an increase in immigration.

In the case of France (figure 3) there is a fairly consistent trend in the immigration levels, with fluctuating levels of immigration. However when the recession took place the levels of unemployment and immigration took an interesting turn – unemployment rose, immigration fell, a negative correlation.

There are many examples of more in-depth studies that highlight very similar results to the ones above (see ‘’ The Labor Market Impact of Immigration and its Policy Consequences’ by Herbert Brücker – http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/docs/MPC%20ASN%202012-04.pdf. Although it must be noted that Brucker’s paper includes emigration as well as immigration). Although no definitive answer can be found by correlation analysis it is clear that there is a very consistent and telling trend in the relationship between unemployment and immigration. When unemployment lowers, immigration tends to increase. Results from this analysis suggest that immigration cannot be regarded as a factor that creates or adds to unemployment. In fact the opposite conclusion is more plausible; migrants are likely to move to where jobs are available, especially since the recession took place. A recommendation for policymakers is to utilise immigration to stimulate to employment. For example, if unemployment rates are lowering, nation states should look to increase the rate and number of immigration. Furthermore, a continual populist myth of ‘high immigration = high unemployment’ needs to be responsibly tackled by the media, especially when there is little to no evidence supporting such claims. Unemployment and immigration are complex phenomena but it looks like the relationship between the two has a simple rule of thumb – low levels of unemployment create higher levels of immigration.

Ashley McCormick, Research Assistant to the MPC

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


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: http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/doc_centre/immigration/docs/COM%202012%20250%20final%201_EN_ACT_part1_v5.pdf#zoom=100

[2] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=SEC:2011:1353:FIN:EN:PDF

[3] http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/12/493&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en

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. http://in.reuters.com/article/2012/07/10/syria-crisis-toll-idINDEE86908X20120710

[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. http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=42510&Cr=syria&Cr1  

[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. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-18929940 

[5] Syrian Regional Refugee Response: Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey 20 July 2012, pg. 1. http://data.unhcr.org/syrianrefugees/regional.php

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



[9] Frontex, FRAN Q1, 2012.  http://www.frontex.europa.eu/assets/Publications/Risk_Analysis/FRAN_Q1_2012.pdf

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

Schengen Visa Facilitation system’s failure in ‘facilitating’ mobility of highly skilled migrants

To date the Schengen visa facilitation system set up by the European Union is turning out to be a failure in ‘facilitating’ visas for highly skilled migrants, according to recent MPC research conducted in Ukraine and Moldova. Instead of facilitating applications, current visa facilitation procedures deter mobility due to ineffective implementation practices . Originally this system was created with the intention of promoting interaction between EU citizens and contracting States by facilitating the issuance of visas for a short stay for a selected group of countries including Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the Russian Federation[i]. But alas, it is not an ideal world hence facilitation practices may not actually coincide with the idealised processes. Within official EU discourses, highly-skilled migrants are considered a positive component required for maintaining the EU’s global competitiveness. This is reflected in the categories of people included in the visa facilitation agreements, and the idea of the Blue Card[ii]. Unfortunately, highly skilled migrants are still being considered as potential irregular workers or illegal visa overstayers.

MPC’s preliminary research has highlighted the experience of highly skilled migrants who come from Ukraine and Moldova[iii]. It has emerged that the reality of the visa facilitation system seems to be very different from what was planned by the EU. Instead of being considered, by default, as ‘bona fide’ travellers, the onus is put on highly skilled migrants to prove that they are not requesting a visa for illegal purposes. Though the costs of visa application and number of documents have reduced, it is but a minor change. The main frustration lies with the cumbersome delays, lack of knowledge of relevant policy tools, lack of transparency in decision process, additional costs related to external service providers and possibly inappropriate working practices of consulate officials.

EU wishes to create a ‘European Research Area’[iv]. It intends to “enable researchers, research institutions and businesses to increasingly circulate, compete and co-operate across border”[v] and enable research and development in a transnational perspective. In addition, the EU’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research[vi], the DG Education and Culture[vii], the DG Development and Cooperation[viii] and other EU frameworks such as the EU Visa Code[ix] wish to promote more innovation and research through transnational mobility of researchers and academics.

All these policy tools clearly wish to promote cutting-edge research and training in the EU. The failure of applying effective practices lies partly with the European Commission which has not been effective in supervising the implementation of these policy tools by the respective Member States. One cannot expect a visa officer sitting in an outpost office in the EU neighbourhood countries to know the link between all these policy tools and visa facilitation agreements. Responsibility for this inefficiency of implementation lies with the respective host country’s Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Labour and Ministry of Education. These bodies should communicate and coordinate with each other for these policy tools to be effectively  implemented.

Furthermore highly skilled migrants should not be seen solely through the perspective of economic benefits for the host EU countries. Immigrants can integrate into the host society and at the same time sustain a thriving social and professional link with their home country. Regrettably, these crucial links are the ones getting severely affected due to the multiple discrepancies between the clauses of the visa facilitation agreement and their implementation by particular member states. For example, families visiting a highly skilled migrant in the EU have to go through the time-consuming and expensive process of visa application every time they wish to visit their relatives. A vast majority of highly skilled migrants from Ukraine and Moldova are not even aware that their close family members can apply for a multiple-entry visa if they have previously visited their family member. Similarly, highly skilled migrants, who are invited for conferences or short training programmes in the EU, decide not to attend due to the cumbersome and expensive visa application process. This situation negatively impacts EU-based companies and research institutions, hampering the flow of  highly skilled migrants throughout the continent. In the research conducted by MPC, it has emerged that in many instances the visa officials arbitrarily decide on visa applications. This lack of transparency and arbitrariness of application decision-making process puts the credibility of the whole procedure in question.

Though a visa-free regime is still an elusive dream for the EU Neighbourhood countries, some changes in the policy can make a positive difference and promote mobility of highly skilled migrants. MPC’s research has provided some recommendations as given below:

–          Implementation of the Visa Code should be accompanied by binding legal guidelines agreed within local Schengen cooperation that will end the discretion of the Schengen Members states in the following areas – the lists of supporting documents; the length of visa procedures; and the mode of lodging the application (via an outsourcing centre or in person).

–          Introduction of special procedures for frequent travellers: maximum term multiple-entry visas, special windows for express procedures, legal minimum of the documents needed.

–          Full information to be provided to applicants on their rights granted both by the Visa Code and Visa Facilitation Agreements both on the consulates’ website and available in print in one’s own language within the visa centres.

–          The possibility of appealing against the decision on a visa in one’s own language following a clear transparent procedure.

–          Pilot visa-free regime for biometric passport holders.

–          Pilot visa-free regime for individuals involved in cross-border EU programmes and projects.

The current visa facilitation situation is turning out to be counterproductive due to the failure of the European Commission and Member States in the proper and thorough implementation of the relevant policy tools as mentioned in our discussion above. This not only adversely impacts the political image of EU but also has high economic costs. The status quo needs to be changed urgently to ensure that the EU’s dream of having ‘people-to-people contact’ does not remain an enigma forever.

The MPC Team

[i] For the original texts of the agreements, please visit the section on ‘Visa facilitation agreements’ at  http://ec.europa.eu/home-affairs/policies/borders/borders_visa_en.htm

[ii] http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32009L0050:EN:NOT

[iii] For the original research paper conducted by MPC, please visit: http://www.migrationpolicycentre.eu/docs/RR%202012%2001%20-%20visa%20final.pdf

[iv] http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/index_en.htm

[v] http://ec.europa.eu/research/era/understanding/what/what_is_era_en.htm

[vi] http://ec.europa.eu/research/fp7/index_en.cfm

[vii] http://ec.europa.eu/dgs/education_culture/index_en.htm

[viii] http://ec.europa.eu/europeaid/index_en.htm

[ix] http://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/ukraine/travel_to_eu/visa_code/visa_code_en.htm

Frontex : vers une meilleure prise en compte des droits fondamentaux?

Frontex, l’Agence européenne pour la gestion de la coopération opérationnelle aux frontières extérieures, est dans la ligne de mire du Médiateur européen, qui a ouvert une enquête à son encontre sur la question du respect des droits fondamentaux le 6 mars dernier[1]. Cette initiative intervient alors même que l’Agence a été fortement critiquée par la société civile quant aux méthodes utilisées lors de ses opérations.

La création de l’Agence en 2004[2] s’inscrivait dans un contexte où l’approche des migrations était essentiellement centrée sur la sécurité. En effet, suite à l’abolition des contrôles aux frontières intérieures de la zone Schengen[3], la politique d’immigration développée à l’époque au niveau européen s’est essentiellement concentrée sur le renforcement des frontières extérieures. Elle visait notamment à mettre en place des critères communs d’entrée sur le territoire de l’Union, à renforcer les contrôles aux frontières extérieures et à conclure des accords avec des pays tiers – pays d’origine ou de transit – pour une gestion plus efficace des flux migratoires[4].

Cependant, cette approche de la migration principalement centrée sur la sécurité est remise en cause, en particulier par les ONG qui, depuis 10-15 ans, dénoncent les violations des droits de l’Homme auxquelles elle a conduit : traitements inhumains et dégradants, non-respect du droit d’asile, refoulement des migrants, en particulier vers des pays tiers –tels que la Libye – dans lesquels le respect des droits de l’homme n’est pas garanti. La pression est d’autant plus forte que la Charte des droits fondamentaux est juridiquement contraignante depuis l’entrée en vigueur du traité de Lisbonne et que le Conseil de l’Europe et la Cour européenne des droits de l’Homme se sont déjà prononcés dans ce domaine[5]. Dans ce contexte, Frontex sera-t-elle capable d’évoluer pour intégrer aux côtés de son objectif initial de sécurité celui de respect des droits fondamentaux ?

Dans cette optique, la révision du règlement « Frontex » adoptée en octobre 2011[6] représente une évolution notable, car elle prévoit pour la première fois des mesures concrètes destinées à assurer le respect des droits fondamentaux dans le cadre des activités de l’Agence et consacre le principe de non-refoulement. L’Agence est tenue d’élaborer une stratégie en matière de droits fondamentaux et de mettre en place « un mécanisme efficace » de contrôle de leur respect[7]. Dans ce cadre, sont notamment prévus la nomination d’un officier aux droits fondamentaux, la création d’un forum consultatif sur les droits fondamentaux[8], le développement de programmes de formation prenant en compte les droits fondamentaux et l’adoption de codes de conduite visant à garantir le respect des droits fondamentaux dans toutes les opérations. Les nouvelles dispositions prévoient également la possibilité pour le directeur exécutif de l’agence de suspendre ou de mettre fin à des opérations conjointes et des projets pilotes dans le cas où la violation des droits fondamentaux serait « grave ou susceptible de persister »[9].

Cependant, force est de constater que la plupart des instruments introduits par le règlement n’ont a priori pas de force juridique contraignante (stratégie, codes de conduite, comité consultatif, officier aux droits fondamentaux faisant « régulièrement rapport »[10]) et que le texte du règlement présente de nombreuses zones d’ombre. Comme il ressort de la lettre adressée par le Médiateur européen à Frontex, la portée des dispositions introduites dépendra dans une large mesure de la manière dont l’Agence les mettra en œuvre. Par exemple : quelles seront les véritables responsabilités de l’officier aux droits fondamentaux ? Celui-ci disposera-t-il d’un service lui permettant de contrôler le respect des droits fondamentaux au cours de chaque opération, sur chaque bateau ? Sera-t-il compétent pour recevoir des plaintes d’individus dont les droits fondamentaux ont été violés ? Ou encore : Qui sera tenu responsable de la violation de droits fondamentaux dans le cadre d’opérations conjointes ? Quelles seront les mesures prises en cas de constatation de violation des droits fondamentaux dans Etat membre ou dans un Etat tiers ? Sur quels critères une violation des droits fondamentaux sera-t-elle considérée comme « grave ou susceptible de persister », permettant ainsi de suspendre ou de mettre fin à des opérations ? Cette procédure a-t-elle vocation à s’appliquer également aux opérations de retour dans le pays d’origine ou de transit[11] ? Enfin, le fait que le nouveau texte fournisse à Frontex un cadre juridique pour le traitement des données à caractère personnel laisse de nombreuses questions en suspens, en particulier sur les conditions de collecte, le type d’informations recueillies et le traitement de celles-ci.

L’enquête ouverte par le Médiateur européen est une démarche positive, car elle exigera des clarifications de la part de Frontex quant à la manière dont elle fera respecter les droits fondamentaux dans le cadre de ses activités. Cependant, au-delà de Frontex, il est nécessaire que l’Union européenne fasse évoluer sa politique d’asile et d’immigration vers une conception de la migration non plus seulement orientée par les questions de la sécurité, mais également par la protection des personnes et le droit à la mobilité, ainsi que par la prise en compte de la migration économique en relation avec les besoins des marchés du travail et le développement. En particulier, la politique de collaboration avec des pays tiers devrait être repensée au regard du respect des droits fondamentaux et de la responsabilité de l’Union ou des Etats membres en cas de violation. Dans ce cadre, la Commission européenne a un rôle important à jouer, d’autant plus qu’elle dispose désormais de la possibilité de mettre en demeure un Etat membre, voire de saisir la Cour de justice de l’UE, en cas de non-respect par ce dernier de ses obligations dans le cadre de la politique d’immigration et d’asile.

L’équipe du MPC en collaboration avec Julien Jeandesboz, King’s College, London

Pour lecture :

–          Developing an EU internal security strategy, fighting terrorism and organised crime, Etude du Parlement europeen, 2011, co-redigée par Julien Jeandesboz: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/etudes/libe/2011/462423/IPOL-LIBE_ET(2011)462423_EN.pdf

–          Agence Frontex: Quelles garanties pour les Droits de l’Homme?, Groupe des Verts du Parlement européen, Novembre 2010 : http://europeecologie.eu/IMG/pdf/dossier_frontex.pdf

–          Pushed back, pushed around , Human Rights Watch, 21 Septembre 2009: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2009/09/21/pushed-back-pushed-around-0

[1] http://www.ombudsman.europa.eu/fr/cases/correspondence.faces/en/11316/html.bookmark

[2] Règlement (CE) n° 2007/2004 du Conseil: http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=CELEX:32004R2007:FR:NOT

[3] Intégration des accords de Schengen dans le traité d’Amsterdam, signé en 1997.

[4] Cf. Conclusions des Conseils européens de Tampere (15-16 octobre 1999) et de Séville (21 et 22 juin 2002).

[5] cf. notamment arrêt de la CEDH Hirsi Jamaa and Others v. Italie : http://cmiskp.echr.coe.int/tkp197/view.asp?action=open&documentId=901571&portal=hbkm&source=externalbydocnumber&table=F69A27FD8FB86142BF01C1166DEA398649

et rapport de la Commission des migrations, des réfugiés et de la population de l’Assemblée parlementaire du Conseil de l’Europe  « Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea : who is responsible ? » : http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2012/20120329_mig_RPT.EN.pdf

[6]Règlement (UE) N° 1168/2011 modifiant le règlement (CE) n° 2007/2004 : http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2011:304:0001:0017:FR:PDF

[7] Nouvel article 26bis par.1.

[8] Seront invités à y participer l’Agence européenne des droits fondamentaux, le Bureau européen d’appui en matière d’asile, le Haut Commissariat des Nations unies pour les réfugiés et d’autre organismes concernés, notamment des ONG.

[9] Article 3 par. 1bis.

[10] Nouvel article 26 bis par. 3.

[11] La référence à cette procédure n’apparait pas dans l’article 9 du règlement (UE) N° 1168/2011 consacré aux opérations de retour.