Opinion & Analysis

European Union Policies on Onward and Secondary Movements of Asylum-seekers and Refugees

A Critical Overview of the EU’s Migration Management Complex

Since the early 1990s, the European Union has put a big emphasis on the management of irregular migration and the ‘secondary movements’ of asylum seekers and refugees inside the Schengen Area. This report examines EU policies designed to manage the irregular movements of asylum-seekers and refugees from selected African and Asian countries, and what the EU calls ‘secondary movements’ inside the Schengen Area. It provides a detailed qualitative assessment of the EU’s migration management complex i.e. the conglomerate of EU instruments and actors behind policies aimed at managing the unauthorised cross-border mobility by asylum seekers and refugees.

The report analyses the conceptual and methodological biases behind the ‘pull and push migration theory’ and the predominant use of ‘migration maps’ representing arrows symbolising unauthorised human journeys following seemingly linear ‘migration routes’ and heading towards the EU. It proposes that these conceptual and visual tools should no longer be used, and instead the focus should be on the roles and impacts of the EU migration management complex in co-creating and reproducing the very phenomena that they are seeking to address, i.e. irregular human mobility across various world regions and within Europe.

The assessment provides a cross-instrument and cross-actor examination characterising the policies that the EU currently implements in the scope of both its external and internal dimensions. The analysis comes with a set of visualisations and infographics illustrating EU instruments, and their prevailing priorities. The report finds that EU policies co-create irregularity and the unauthorised mobility of asylum seekers coming from certain non-European world regions. EU policies disregard individuals’ legitimate reasons for engaging (or not) in cross-border mobility and their agency to self-relocate in the Schengen Area. They create discrimination against nationals of certain African and Asian countries from accessing genuine and effective legal entry mechanisms and the ability to seek asylum in the Union.

The report recommends the need to ensure a systematic use of ex ante, ongoing and ex post human rights impact assessments and the establishment of an independent, transparent and effective monitoring mechanism, in the form of an EU observatory, to monitor the hyper complexity emerging from EU external and internal migration policies, so as to ensure their accountability and consistency with EU rule of law and fundamental rights principles.

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