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Belgium : European Agenda on Migration: Continuous efforts needed to sustain progress.

Ahead of the March European Council, the Commission is reporting today on progress made under the European Agenda on Migration and sets out further key actions to be taken, including as set out in the Commission's roadmap from December 2017 towards a comprehensive deal on migration by June 2018.

The decrease in irregular arrivals has been confirmed throughout 2017 and the first months of 2018, while work is ongoing to save lives, tackle root causes, protect Europe's external borders, and further strengthen cooperation with international partners. However, with the overall situation remaining fragile, additional efforts, notably stepped up financial resources, will be needed jointly from the Member States and the EU to ensure a continued, effective response to the migration challenge.

First Vice-President Frans Timmermans said: "Today's report takes stock of the progress made since last November, which is due to our strong joint efforts to manage migration in a comprehensive way. We need to maintain this momentum and work hard to take further steps forward, including finding agreement on the reformed asylum system. Some of these actions are very urgent, such as honouring the financial contributions Member States committed to. Managing migration remains a high priority for our citizens and we will only achieve this through a truly comprehensive and collective engagement."

High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said: "The strategy we have put in place to manage migration in partnership with key countries, UN organisations and the African Union is delivering. With the Joint AUEU-UN Task Force, we assisted more than 15,000 people to return to their homes and start a new life, and we evacuated over 1.300 refugees from Libya. Cooperation and shared responsibilities are key to effectively address this global challenge.

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: "With arrivals down by almost 30% compared to the pre-crisis year 2014, the time is ripe to speed up and intensify our efforts across the board not to slow down. We cannot risk becoming complacent now. We need more and quicker actions on return, border management and legal channels, in particular resettlement from Africa but also Turkey."

With 205 000 irregular border crossings in 2017, arrivals to the EU were 28% lower than in 2014, the year before the crisis. Pressure on national migration systems, while decreasing, remains at a high level with 685,000 asylum applications lodged in 2017.

Saving lives and addressing root causes

Work along the Central Mediterranean route has been further accelerated with a strong focus on saving lives, protecting migrants along the route and voluntary return and reintegration in countries of origin: More than 285,000 migrants have been rescued by EU operations in the Mediterranean since February 2016 and in 2017 more than 2,000 migrants were saved in the desert after having been abandoned by smugglers. The joint African Union European Union United Nations Taskforce set up in November 2017 has helped more than 15,000 migrants return from Libya to their home countries in cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). In addition, over 1,300 refugees have been evacuated from Libya under the new, EU-funded UNHCR Emergency Transit Mechanism and should now be swiftly resettled to Europe. Joint efforts will continue to evacuate migrants in detention and put an end to the dire conditions in which they are held, as well as to dismantle smuggling and trafficking networks. The EU Trust Fund for Africa continues to play a critical role in addressing root causes and providing protection to migrants and refugees along the route and fighting migrants smuggling and trafficking, with now 147 programmes for a total of 2.5 billion approved across the Sahel and Lake Chad, the Horn of Africa and North Africa. However, more than 1 billon is currently still lacking for the important work ahead.

The External Investment Plan with its European Fund for Sustainable Development has attracted a lot of interest from partner financial institutions and the private sector. The response to the first invitation for investment proposals under the Guarantee Fund has been very encouraging. Most likely, additional Member States' contributions will be essential in order to respond to the high demand. The EU-Turkey Statement continues to deliver results with irregular and dangerous arrivals remaining 97% down on the period before the Statement became operational. The Commission is today launching the mobilisation for the second 3 billion tranche of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey after the first part of the Facility was fully contracted by the end of 2017.

Reinforcing external border management

The European Border and Coast Guard Agency is currentlysupporting national border guards with 1,350 deployed experts along all migratory routes but more contributions are needed in terms of personnel and equipment to sustain the ongoing operations. In parallel, work is ongoing to develop the European Integrated Border Management strategy, reflecting the fact that the EU's external borders are common borders requiring collective and joined-up action by national and EU authorities. Today's report presents the main elements for developing this strategy which should now be taken up by Member State authorities and the European Border and Coast Guard Agency.

Delivering on return and readmission

Significant progress is being made in improving cooperation with countries of origin on return. Since last summer, practical agreements on return have been reached with three additional countries of origin while discussions with several further partner countries are underway.

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Publication:Mena Report
Date:Mar 15, 2018
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