Discussions with Belgian state secretary for migration and asylum

On June 20th, CEPS researchers Mikkel Barslund and Lars Ludolph engaged in a closed-door meeting with the Belgian Secretary of State for Migration and Asylum, Theo Francken. The session opened with a briefing of Mr Francken on the main findings in the recently published MEDAM report “Sharing responsibility for refugees and expanding legal migration”. A cornerstone of the research report is its recommendation to induce a shift from unmanaged irregular flows of migrants to a handful of EU countries towards a well-managed set of legal pathways to EU territory. The latter would include a much greater focus on the direct resettlement of vulnerable, formally recognised refugees from third countries. The report also flags the need for flexible burden-sharing among the EU member states to allow for adequate care for those who do arrive irregularly.

Following a discussion of these broad general principles, which by and large are supported by the Belgian government, the focus turned to the more specific issues of progress on the reform of the Dublin system and the situation in the Mediterranean. The Secretary of State agreed with the assessment of the MEDAM report regarding the very low chance for a successful adoption of the current Commission proposals in the near future. The notion of physical burden-sharing within a ‘coalition of the willing’, which is advocated in the report, was also touched upon, but the Secretary of State emphasised the need for effective refugee burden-sharing via a functioning relocation scheme involving all member states.

Providing effective means to address the record number of irregular crossings along the Central Mediterranean route and ensuring faster return of the large share of arrivals who are not eligible for protection were the final topics of the exchange. Among the issues discussed were the various tools available to engage countries of origin, including visa policies, development aid and the migration compacts currently being implemented by the European Commission.