Lords call for a flexible approach to managing migration

18 December 2012


The House of Lords EU Committee has today called for a more coordinated and more flexible approach by the EU and its Members States to external migration policy to help Europe address its demographic challenges and deliver economic growth over the decades ahead.

In its report, The EU’s Global Approach to Migration and Mobility, the Committee considers the Commission’s 2011 Communication on the Global Approach to Migration and Mobility (‘the GAMM’) and the UK’s participation in EU asylum and immigration measures. The report points out that as the UK and other countries in Europe face an ageing population and a declining birth rate, legal third country immigration into the EU will be needed to keep the economy on track and retain Europe’s competitiveness in a global market.

The Committee says that while Member States should retain primary responsibility for their own migration policies (and neither the Committee nor any of those from which it received evidence suggested a change in that) the EU also has a role to play. The reports emphasises that as the majority of irregular migrants enter the EU with authorisation and then overstay their visas, rather than crossing the EU’s external border by boat or land routes illegally, the EU should adopt a more effective approach in preventing irregular migration, including the conclusion of EU Readmission Agreements, which it urges the Government to participate in fully. The report also acknowledges the role the EU can play in refugee management and building capacity in the asylum systems of countries of origin and transit, welcoming the recent Regional Protection Programme that has been established for Syria and the neighbouring countries. The Committee called for vigorous evaluation of Mobility Partnerships with third countries.

The report calls for greater joined-up working in the formulation and implementation of migration policy. It argues that migration policy cannot and should not be the sole concern of interior ministries and a more integrated approach with development and foreign affairs ministries – at the national and EU level – would help maximise the EU’s development aims. The reduction of trade barriers with non-EU countries and measures to facilitate remittances, mitigate the effects of brain drain and assist diasporas to contribute to their countries of origin would also be beneficial.

The Committee also considers the position of international students in the UK and argued that they should not be subjected to the Government’s policy objective of reducing net migration. The Committee say the Government is making it more difficult for UK universities to compete to attract talented foreign students.

Commenting on the report, Lord Hannay of Chiswick, Chairman of the Home Affairs, Health and Education Sub-Committee, said:

“The migration of peoples within and into Europe is not a modern phenomenon. As our population ages both in the UK and across Europe we will need young and ambitious legal immigrants coming into the EU to ensure we can deliver economic growth and remain competitive. However, we do not consider more migration to be a panacea. The skills of EU citizens also need to be developed as part of necessary labour market reforms.

“The UK’s migration policy cannot and should not be formulated and implemented in a vacuum. So far the UK has refrained from opting in to the majority of EU legal and irregular migration measures and has started to extricate itself from the Common European Asylum System. We have consistently urged the Government to play a full part in EU asylum and immigration policies and believe that a more constructive cooperation with the Schengen Area could provide benefits for the UK. We are clear that the free movement of EU citizens is fundamental to the UK’s continued membership of the EU.

“We urge the Government to remove international students from the public policy implications of its net migration reduction targets. Failure to do so will impair both the quality of the UK’s higher education sector and its ability to attract talented individuals in an increasingly competitive global market. It will also damage one of the UK’s primary invisible exports and the long-terms benefits of fostering international relationships in this area.”

To read a copy of the report, please visit the Committee's webpage.

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