This Brief analyses the EU’s external policy on migration and asylum and the trend of externalizing migration control to neighbouring countries. It highlights how the current pro-active momentum in EU policy represents a chance for Italy as a frontline country to direct ongoing discourse towards long-term and protection-sensitive solutions. Throughout the last years, and in response to the increase in flows entering European soil via the Eastern and Central Mediterranean routes, the EU has strengthened its attempts to reduce entries by externalizing migration control instruments and concluding agreements with neighbouring countries such as Turkey. More recently, Italy has resumed its cooperation with Libya signing a bilateral memorandum, which has been immediately endorsed and reinforced by the EU. In doing so, to a certain extent an old externalization and securitization approach has been replicated, which has long demonstrated its shortcomings if not counterbalanced by protection and cooperation instruments. The lack of a long-term cooperation perspective, the inability of partners to provide for the security and proper treatment of migrants on their territory, the absence of intra-EU solidarity and the lack of differentiation of flows are just some of the problematic aspects such approach has been criticized for. This Brief calls upon EU Member States, with a special emphasis on Italy and other frontline countries, to advocate for a common European external asylum and migration policy which moves away from securitization and externalization towards real cooperation with its neighbourhood and a protection-sensitive entry system. Concrete suggestions are formulated, aimed at reconciling the legitimate focus on border security with the safeguard of fundamental values and with the need to attain long-term results.
1. Introduction: 2017, a precious occasion for fostering policy changes
2. Analysing the current policy context
a. A long history of externalisation and securitization?
b. The 2015-2016 biennium: have we gone any further?
c. Early 2017 developments
d. The more the better? The funding landscape
3. Identifying critical points and recommending the way forward
a. Political challenges: the lack of a long-term perspective and a multi-focal approach in the external dimension and of a common solidarity-based approach in internal policy
b. Legal challenges: Putting at risk the right to international protection
4. Conclusions and policy recommendations: understanding and responding to the double face of the migration challenge