04 Apr 2019

The EU’s Role in Implementing the UN Global Compact on Refugees

Contained Mobility vs. International Protection

Sergio Carrera / Roberto Cortinovis

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The Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), adopted in December 2018 by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly, expresses the political will of UN member states and relevant stakeholders to foster responsibility sharing for refugees and their host countries. Among GCR key objectives is that of expanding mobility and admission channels for people in search of international protection through resettlement and ‘complementary’ pathways of admission. The GCR provides a reference framework to critically assess European Union (EU) policies in relation to two main issues: first, the role and contribution of the EU and its Member States towards the implementation of the GCR in ways that are loyal to the Compact and EU Treaties guiding principles; second, and more specifically, the main gaps and contested issues of existing resettlement and complementary admission instruments for refugees and would-be refugees implemented at the EU and Member State levels.

This paper argues that EU policies in the field of asylum and migration have been driven by a ‘contained mobility’ approach, which has been recently operationalised in the scope of EU third country arrangements like the 2016 EU-Turkey Statement. Under this approach, restrictive and selective mobility/admission arrangements for refugees have been progressively consolidated and used in exchange of, or as incentives for, third country commitments to EU readmission and expulsions policy. The paper concludes by recommending that the EU moves from an approach focused on ‘contained mobility’ towards one that places refugee’s rights and agency at the centre through facilitated resettlement and other complementary pathways driven by a fundamental rights and international protection rationale.