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Migration Policy Watch 07-07-2016



Free movement within the European Economic Area has been for the United Kingdom (UK) a controversial issue since the 80´s. In consequence the UK did not join the Schengen Agreement and nowadays it implements so-called opt-out for justice and home affairs.

In connection to Brexit, there are two main lines of migration policy:

A) Free movement within the EU: Free movement of the EU citizens (and equal access to the labour market in all EU countries) has been one of the main topics for Vote Leavecampaign. UK has been considering range of ways how to deal with free movement and its access to the European single market, where the EU demands reciprocity and maintaining all the four freedoms. In any case, the deal, which David Cameron had made in February this year, was cancelled as a consequence of the referendum’s results.

Number and increase of the EU citizens living in the UK (mostly new Member States and Member States affected by the financial crisis):


Reasons for moving to the UK in proportions (EU citizens):


From the remaining three candidates for Tory leadership and thus the seat of Prime Minister,Michael Gove (in favour with Brexit) has announced, he would end free movement, introduce an Australian-style points-based system for immigration and bring numbers down. Theresa May (in favour with Bremain) intends to find open relation between access to the single market and free movement control as much as bearable. According to BBC, May „has said the status of EU nationals living in the UK would form part of the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, refusing to guarantee that they will be allowed to remain, in contrast to her rivals. She has also suggested migration could rise ahead of the UK’s eventual exit from the EU but remains committed to the government’s aim of getting net migration below 100,000 a year“.  Andrea Leadsom has promised to guarantee the rights of EU citizens currently living and working in the UK, but suggested new arrangements for people arriving after 23 June. She urges to get control over free movement quickly either by having a transitional arrangement since the referendum, or indeed since negotiations start.

B) Migration policy & Asylum policy (in context of the current migration crisis): When the UK is allowed to use the opt-out clause, it is not obliged to participate in the home affairs policies under certain conditions (as it does not take part for instance in relocation mechanisms). If the UK remained as a part of the EU, it could take part in the current Dublin system opting-out its proposed reform. If the UK leaves the EU, it will not be allowed to participate in the Dublin system any more and send the secondary-moving irregular migrants or asylum-seekers back to the responsible Member State.


Besides Brexit, migration was one of the main issues of the last European Council summit on 28th – 29th June. Related to migration, Prime Ministers and heads of states reached an agreement and adopted conclusions on following points:

  • The need to provide continued support to Western Balkan countries, including in their fight against smugglers;
  • To remain vigilant about potential developments regarding other routes so as to be able to take rapid and concerted action;
  • To accelerate the implementation of the existing relocation and resettlement schemes;
  • Reduction of migratory flows on the Central Mediterranean Route;
  • Ensuring full control over the EU external borders.

The European Council also supported the Commission’s Communication  on establishing a new Partnership Framework with third countries under the European Agenda on Migration.The aim of the partnership framework is to prevent illegal migration and to ensure returns of the irregular migrants back to countries of transit or origin. The EU intends to use both positives and negative incentives and all its relevant measure including development policy and trade. Such a framework corresponds in most of the identified needs and measures to the proposal for a sustainable reform of the European Asylum System introduced by the European Values think-tank at the end of May in Brussels.


Related to the various EU policies, including the announced new Partnership Framework, the EU intends to invest 6 bn. EUR in the upcoming five years to the Middle East and the North Africa. The aim of the investments is to improve living conditions for the refugees in the country of origin (IDPs concerned) or neighbouring regions to reduce migration to Europe. This idea is based on that fact, that reasons for migration are mostly socio-economic.

The investments should targets e.g. on:

  • Building schools,
  • Health Care,
  • Sanitation and access to drinking water,
  • Infrastructure.

The investments ought to flow to Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Maghreb countries. Besides, the Western Balkan countries should profit from them. The European Council invited the Commission to present by September 2016 a proposal for an ambitious External Investment Plan. Priority examination by the Council and the European Parliament should follow.

Besides these investments, the EU is to contribute 6 bn. EUR to Turkey (which is currently dealing with 2.74 mil. Syrian refugees) based on the Joint Action Plan from October 2015 and on the Joint EU – Turkey Statement from March 2016). List of the current investment and fund program in relevant countries is to be find zde.

Helping refugees out of the Europe may be demonstrably considered as more helpful and effective due to:

  • Lower expenses per capita which in fact would allow to help wider range of people in need (while care for one refugee in Germany costs up to 13.000 EUR per year, care for one refugee in Zatari refugee camp costs 1.600 EUR per year;
  • Prevention of “brain drain”, i.e. draining human capital from the region,
  • Reduction of smuggling service (according to the Europol, over 90 % irregular migrants coming to Europe in 2015 used facilitation services at some point during their journey and such a trend continues and has not been decreasing this year).


The Council a the European Parliament have adopted the Commission’s proposal for establishing the European Border and Coast Guard (EBCG). The proposal was introduced in December last year, a crucial change was removal of the possibility of deployment the EBCG units to the country without any request previously made by an affected Member State to be needed. The Commission came up with such a measure of strengthening the supranationalism within external border protection in consequence of very late request for the Frontex RABITs, which had been made by Greece in December 2015, despite months-lasting alarming situation in the Greek border management during the migration crisis in 2015).



According to Europol the intelligence identified nearly 7.000 newly suspected smugglers in the first half of 2016 (around 30.000 suspected criminals were involved in the migration crisis to Europe in 2015). 95% of them are male, with an average age of 36. Alike in 2015, over 90 % irregular migrants who arrived at the hotspots in 2016 declared their journeys had been facilitated.

In addition, prices have increased significantly, with migrants paying up to EUR 3,000 for just one part of the journey (in 2015, price for the whole journey, i.e. from the country of origin to a final destination country in the EU was 2,000 – 5,000 EUR). Furthermore, the overall time between leaving the country of origin and arriving in the country of destination has prolonged, from 1 – 2 weeks up to several months. An increase in pressure on secondary movement routes is expected. Also an increase of in labour exploitation has been noticed: migrants may be forced to work to pay their large debts with the smugglers. Recent figures show that, while in 2015 0.2% of migrants declared that they had to work to pay back smugglers, this rose to 5% in 2016.



At the occasion of the World Refugee Day (20th July) the UNHCR published a report „ Global Trends: Forced Displacement in 2015“. According to the UNHCR in 2015:

  • UNHCR registered 65.3 million people forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations (increase 5.8 million more than the previous year).
  • 86 % of the world’s refugees under UNHCR’s mandate was hosted by developing countries.
  • 12.4 million people were newly displaced due to conflict or persecution in 2015.
  • By the end 2015, about 3.2 million people were waiting for a decision on their application for asylum.
  • 2 mil. new applications for asylum or refugee status were submitted, most of them in Germany (442.000), USA (173.000), Sweden (156.000) and Russia (153.000).
  • 98.400 unaccompanied or separated minors (UAM) lodged asylum applications (mostly Afghans, Eritreans, Syrians, and Somalis). The EU registered 88 300 UAM in 2015.
  • Only 201,400 refugees returned to their countries of origin. Most returned to Afghanistan (61,400), Sudan (39,500), Somalia (32,300), or the Central African Republic (21,600).



UK as well as candidates to be a new Prime Minister are reckoning various potential ways and possibilities for negotiations with the EU about the access to the single market and getting control over immigration to the country – from application of immigration law applied for third-country nationals over an Australian-style points-based system for immigration to getting as much control as possible while maintaining UK ’s access to the single market ( see the attitude of the Vote Leave Campaign to migration policy and free movement). However, a concrete strategy based on an impact-assessment including all possible variables is still missing.

If the UK follows referendum’s results, there are three basic concepts for migration policy:

A ) Full participation in the single market with maintained free movement: If the UK chooses this scheme (alike e.g. Norway applies), there will not be changed much. On the contrary, the position of the UK would be aggravated. The EU strictly denies dividing access to the single market and all the four freedoms as well as demands  reciprocity. If the UK leaves the EU, its influence on decision-making will be probably very low while the impact of EU’s policies and decisions on the UK might be crucial.

If UK is not able to come up with new functioning and effective immigration system and if it is not able to eliminate incurred deficiencies at the British labour market, maintenance of the full access single market and accepting free movement is likely to be the best option.

B) Bilateral Agreements: In view of the fact that bilateral relations between UK and individual Member States and different demands and conditions of national labour markets, concluding bilateral agreements with the EU countries individually would be a long-running issue. However, clarification of the UK ’s position within the European Economic Area and consolidation of the British labour market must be a premise for concluding such bilateral agreement, which cannot be made without previous negotiation and setting-up the relations at the UK – EU level.

C) An Australian-style points-based system for immigration: The UK may introduce admission requirements for EU nationals after leaving the EU. With respect to the wide scale of possible criteria, it is very difficult draw the future of the new UK immigration system. According to the report of University of Oxfordthere is no reason to assume that any admission requirements imposed on EU citizens after a vote to leave the EU would be the same as the ones that currently apply to non-EU nationals. These policies were designed to regulate non-EU migration in a very different environment, in which EU nationals did not face restrictions on migration for work. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to assume that the skill level of the job would continue to be an important part of any selection scheme in the future. It is also clear that in any selection system based on earnings and proposed occupation, there would be large differences in the implications for different industries, occupations and, to a lesser extent, regions (e.g. Distribution, Hotels and Restaurants’ industry category employees 22 % of EU citizens currently living in the UK while only 6 % of employees in total were in graduate-level jobs paying at least £20,000).

Any restrictions on EU migration in a post-Brexit scenario are likely to apply only to future migrants coming to the UK after the establishment of those rules, not to EU nationals already living in the country.