Legal pathways for refugees to Europe: developments and challenges
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Promoting legal access routes for better integration
European Insights wanted to take an in-depth look at legal channels for admission into Europe, which are often discussed but not always defined.
The following articles aim to shed light on the required distinctions and common characteristics of these mechanisms, and to identify their strengths and weaknesses.
Initially, they are presented as extensions of conventional protection mechanisms, namely asylum and subsidiary protection in Member States of the European Union: the right to family reunification for the families of recognised refugees; facilitated access to asylum through resettlement mechanisms from first countries of asylum in cooperation with UNHCR; or through “humanitarian corridors” created by private initiatives, in particular by NGOs such as Sant’Egidio. The overall effect of these initiatives is to increase the number of people offered asylum in Europe (in 2018, there were 26,000 resettlements and 44,000 family reunifications), even if this remains very far from the international protection needs estimated by UNHCR.
There is then the question of “humanitarian” protection, linked to vulnerability, which arises alongside the right of asylum, sometimes as a condition for easier access to this right, sometimes as a specific and temporary, more limited form of protection, such as humanitarian admissions or visas, which are at the discretion of each Member State. The voluntary nature of these programmes does not sit comfortably with the EU’s goal to harmonise htem through a common framework.
Finally, one very positive aspect common to most of these legal channels for admission into the EU should be considered, namely the integration prospects of the migrants welcomed in this way; be it their legal status in the host country, which is better guaranteed (87% of UNHCR resettled persons obtain refugee status) or the involvement of the host country’s society to integrate beneficiaries, with resources coming from welcoming cities, NGOs such as Sant’Egidio and its network of charitable organisations, families, and private sponsors.
For us at France terre d’asile, this is a subject for reflection. These types of access routes to protection in Europe remain very limited, since 90% of people granted protection entered the EU irregularly. Nonetheless, these mechanisms hold the key to the successful integration of beneficiaries into host societies, making it highly desirable to change this proportion.
In the discussions which we initiated in Paris in 2019 and which will continue in Berlin with the actors involved in the reception of refugees and migrants in other European countries – local authorities, NGOs, charitable organisations – we are addressing precisely this concern.
Thierry Le Roy
President, France terre d’asile