Brussels has been urged to drop its “security-driven approach” to controlling migration and instead open up legal routes for refugees and asylum seekers by Europe’s two biggest left-wing parties.
The leaders of the Greens and Socialists today penned a joint letter to EU Council president Donald Tusk condemning the current strategy of trying to keep new migrants out whilst returning those who do not qualify for asylum.
Ska Keller and Gianni Pittella said there was a need for a more “progressive” immigration system and put forward radical plans for reform which are likely to unnerve some member states.
They said: “We remain seriously concerned about the current security-driven approach -which seems to be mainly focused on “outsourcing” border management, stemming the flows and increasing returns.”
Amongst their proposals are the creating of a ‘blue card’ visa scheme which would be available to a “broad class” of non-EU citizens and extending the troubled migrant quota system by forcing countries to take in refugees.
The EU Council is currently considering reform of the Dublin System, under which migrants arriving in Europe are supposed to claim asylum in the first country they reach, to help more fairly share the border across Europe.
But the discussions are deadlocked due to intense differences between the 27 member states over border issues, with many Eastern European countries furiously opposed to any obligation to take in refugees.
In their letter the two parties, which together 239 of the EU Parliament’s 747 elected MEPs, said they were “strongly concerned about the European response to the current migration challenges”.
Ms Keller and Mr Pittella call for an end to the first country of entry rule and instead advocate a “move towards a centralized and permanent mechanism of fair responsibility sharing among Member States”.
Amongst the proposals most likely to concern member states is the suggestion that the Council “extend the relocation measures until the adoption of the reform of the Dublin regulation”.
Currently the mandate for the migrant quota scheme, agreed back in 2015, is due to run out in September with a number of Eastern European countries including Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic having refused to take part.
The pair write: “We need harmonised, efficient and ambitious, safe and legal channels of migration, which are effectively used by and across the Member States.
“One of these channels should pass through the establishment of an EU Blue Card, which should be available to a broad class of highly- skilled third country nationals, irrespective of their legal status.
“In particular, to any beneficiaries of international protection, or applicants for international protection who already have access to the labour market and fulfil all the qualifying criteria for a Blue Card.”
They add: “Moreover, we need to seek the extension of the framework for legal migration, so as to reflect the positive and concrete contribution that migrants make to the European economy.”
The two parties also call for Europe to adopt a humanitarian visa system – something that has been mooted in the past – and for a significant stepping up of “immediate, proactive, mass search and rescue activities” in the Med.
Some member states, such as Italy, have raised concerns that search and rescue operations effectively act as a taxi service for migrant smugglers and only encourage more people to undertake the deadly sea crossing.
But Mr Pittella retorted: “This emergency has dragged on for years now, and we already bear on our conscience the death of the hundreds of migrants who have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea.”
More than 1.6 million migrants and refugees have reached Europe since summer 2015, with that number being made up of people fleeing war and persecution and those seeking jobs and a better live in the EU.