“The Single Act means the commitment of implementing simultaneously the great market without frontiers, more economic and social cohesion, an European research and technology policy, the strengthening of the European Monetary System, the beginning of an European social area and significant actions in environment.”(Jacques Delors)
The practicalities of free movement within an area without internal border controls were first set out by the Schengen Agreement in 1985 and the subsequent Schengen Convention in 1995 that abolished controls on internal borders between the signatory countries.
Convention determining the State responsible for examining applications for asylum lodged in one of the Member States of the European Communities.
Under the Amsterdam Treaty, asylum and immigration have been moved from the „third pillar“ – where unanimous decisions by all member states through an intergovernmental decision-making process are required – to the „first pillar“ where the EU institutions play a larger role.
It provides for the establishment of an „area of freedom, security and justice“and gives the Union Institutions new powers to develop legislation on immigration and asylum matters. For the first time, one can talk meaningfully of a European Asylum Policy.
The working group on Asylum and Migration produces "action plans" for various migrant and refugee-producing regions of the world. They tend to emphasize the need to contain refugees in their region of origin by addressing the causes of flight and by providing aid locally.
The Strategic Committee on Immigration, Frontiers and Asylum (SCIFA) is an umbrella organisation composed of officials from the member states that is charged with the task of overseeing and coordinating the diverse task forces active in the field of asylum and immigration.
The EU declared its intention to establish a Common European Asylum System based on the full and inclusive application of the Geneva Convention. The five-year agenda from 1999 to 2004 called the 'Tampere programme': the first set of legally-binding EU-level agreements on asylum; temporary protection for persons displaced by conflicts, a common understanding of refugee status and subsidiary protection, minimum procedural guarantees, minimum conditions for the reception of asylum seekers and a regulation on deciding which Member State is responsible for assessing which asylum claim.
The Intergovernmental Conference faced the main challenge of setting the bases of an Union enlarged towards the East. The EU has agreed on a Charter of Fundamental Rights, which includes a right to asylum.
The Centre of Information, Discussion and Exchange on the Crossing of Frontiers and Immigration (CIREIF) has as its objective to assist the Member States in studying legal and illegal immigration, preventing illegal migration and facilitator networks, in better detecting forged documents and improving expulsion practices.
The Green Paper of the Commission „on a community return policy for illegal residents“ suggested joint procedures and mutual official assistance in the area of deportation.
The very first European Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) is called EURODAC and will register the fingerprints of asylum seekers and certain categories of illegal immigrants arriving in any of the participating countries . This will make it possible to apply the Dublin Convention; on the criteria and mechanisms for determining which State is responsible for which asylum application, as well as the Community regulation which will replace it in the course of 2003.
The European Commission has acknowledged that „the objectives set at Tampere have not yet all been achieved,“ (COM 4002 final, 2 June 2004, page 7). The Hague programme is a new five-year programme for closer co-operation in justice and home affairs at EU level from 2005 to 2010. It aims to make Europe an area of freedom, security and justice. The programme focuses on setting up a common immigration and asylum policy for the 25 EU member states.In the field of asylum, immigration and border control, the Hague programme contains the following key measures:
* a common European asylum system with a common procedure and a uniform status for those who are granted asylum or protection by 2009
* measures for foreigners to legally work in the EU in accordance with labour market requirements;
* a European framework to guarantee the successful integration of migrants into host societies;
* partnerships with third countries to improve their asylum systems, better tackle illegal immigration and implement resettlement programmes;
* a policy to expel and return illegal immigrants to their countries of origin;
* a fund for the management of external borders;
* Schengen information system (SIS II) - a database of people who have been issued with arrest warrants and of stolen objects to be operational in 2007;
* common visa rules (common application centres, introduction of biometrics in the visa information system).
The new Border Protection Agency opened for work in Warsaw. The main duties are: First stage of risk analysis (i.e. the detection of migration routes) and the coordination of the joint deportation of persons from third countries.
The Common European Asylum System (CEAS), as defined in the Tampere and The Hague Programme, was intended to be built in two phases. The first one, comprising four main legal instruments, is completed (see above: Summit in Tampere, 1999). According to The Hague Programme, the second phase instruments should be adopted by the end of 2010. The Green Paper presents comprehensively a broad range of issues that will have to be addressed in the second phase. The goal pursued in the first stage was to harmonize the Member States' legal frameworks on the basis of common minimum standards. The goals in the second stage should be to achieve both a higher common standard of protection and greater equality in protection across the EU and to ensure a higher degree of solidarity between EU Member States.
The establishment of a European Migration Network (EMN) has the aim to collect, analyse and disseminate objective, reliable and comparable information on migration and asylum. Composed of National Contact Points, it will provide up-to-date information to EU institutions and Member States for purposes of policy development and decision-making.
The framework programme is designed to improve management of migratory flows at the level of the European Union and to strengthen solidarity between Member States. It has four dimensions.
The first concerns integrated management of external borders, with the setting up of an External Borders Fund. The second concerns asylum policy, with the prolongation of the European Refugee Fund. The third concerns the social, civic and cultural integration of Non-EU Member Country nationals, with the setting up of a European Integration Fund. The fourth concerns the fight against illegal immigration and the return of Non-EU Member Country nationals residing illegally in the EU, with the setting up of a European Return Fund.
External Borders Fund (2007-2013):This decision establishes, as part of the General Programme "Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows", an External Borders Fund for the period 2007-2013 with resources totalling 1820 million.
European Refugee Fund (2008-2013): This decision establishes a European Refugee Fund of 628 million for the period 2008-2013, as part of the General Programme "Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows".
Return Fund (2008-2013): This decision establishes, as part of the General Programme "Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows", a Return Fund for the period 2007-2013 with resources totalling 676 million.
Integration Fund (2007-2013): This decision establishes a European Integration Fund of 825 million for the period 2007-2013 as part of the General Programme "Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows".
The Pact, which provides non-legally binding guidelines for future EU immigration policy, asylum and border management, gives priority to national competence over that of the EU in the area of immigration and asylum. Its approach is apparently based on a security rationale. The focus is now on re-directing migration policy towards economic (largely skilled) immigration. The objective is to make the EU more attractive to highly qualified workers and further facilitate the reception of students and researchers and their movement within the EU.
The Stockholm Programme is the follow-up programme of the The Hague Programme covering the years 2010 – 2014 with the aim to address future challenges in the field of justice and home affairs. In the area of migration and asylum policies, the European Union will focus, in the years to come, on the following priorities:
* Promoting a common European citizenship within an area of freedom, security and justice in which fundamental rights and freedoms are protected
* Creating a Europe of responsibility, solidarity and partnership in migration and asylum matters on the grounds of the European Pact on Immigration and Asylum
* Finalizing a common European asylum system by 2012
* Organizing the access to Europe in a more effective and efficient way for businessmen, tourists, students, scientists, workers as well as persons in need of international protection; on the other hand, the EU stresses the importance of the security factor, which should not be endangered by this facilitated access