More opportunities for refugees to enter the EU legally can save lives, says FRA Focus paper

In the biggest movement of forcibly displaced people since World War II, tens of thousands of people are risking their lives, and dying, while trying to seek sanctuary in the EU. FRA’s latest Focus paper, presents different ways to improve and increase legal admissions to the EU.

Already this year over 370 people have died trying to find a better life by crossing the Mediterranean,” says FRA Director Morten Kjaerum. “A comprehensive set of different actions is needed to reduce the loss of lives at sea and the abuses carried out by human traffickers. As one of these actions, the EU and its Member States therefore need to do more to ensure legal options are on the table and more readily available to ensure more people can enjoy their right to asylum and come to the EU safely.

For the first time in the post-World War II era, in 2013 the number of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced people worldwide has exceeded 50 million people. Many refugees are vulnerable to exploitation and abuse as the possibilities for people in need of protection to legally enter and stay in the EU are very limited.

The FRA Focus “Legal entry channels to the EU for persons in need of international protection: a toolbox” aims to describe possible ways to increase legal admissions into the EU of people in need of international protection. It does not deal with asylum seekers who appear at the border or are already inside the EU who should be treated fairly in accordance with EU asylum acquis and in full respect of the principle of non-refoulement and the prohibition of collective expulsion.

It presents a toolbox of possible schemes Member States could use to enable more people to reach the EU without resorting to smugglers. These include: 

  • refugee-related schemes, such as resettlement, humanitarian admissions, the issuance of humanitarian visas (either under Schengen or national law) and temporary protection; 
  • regular mobility schemes such as those available to family members of people residing in the EU, students, migrant workers and other categories of people, which could be made more accessible to refugees staying in third countries.

The paper outlines the advantages as well as risks of legal entry and suggests possible ways to overcome these risks. Promising practices presented by FRA illustrate that several EU Member States as well as other countries have already put in place different legal entry schemes and programmes, which could be expanded and which could inspire other EU Member States to follow.

The paper also suggests that increasing legal avenues to reach the EU should be a core component of the European Commission’s future plan to combat human trafficking. Other suggestions include the need for the EU to: propose common approaches for legal entry; help exchange of promising practices among Member States; and financially contribute to national efforts to increase opportunities for legal entry.

Overall, there is a clear need for EU institutions and Member States to increase the possibilities to reach the EU legally. Ultimately, this will help save lives and lessen the abuse that people trying to come to the EU suffer.