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Malta Summit on external aspect of migration
1.2.17
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The Maltese Council Presidency is hosting a Summit of the heads of all EU Member States on 3 February to discuss external aspects of migration. As a follow up to a " Coreper breakfast (19 January)" the Presidency drew up a Note summarising possible initiatives: Malta Summit - External aspects of migration (pdf). The Draft Council Conclusions (below) do not take up most of the points raised but the Note shows what is under the table for future consideration. It includes:

"As regards the Return Directive (2008/115/EC)

– The Return Directive should be analysed to identify what would make its implementation more effective, through further guidance by the Commission on implementation by Member States (for instance through a possible adaptation of the Return Handbook 2) on, inter alia:

.. the application of measures in order to avoid absconding or, where appropriate, by
developing effective alternatives to detention,

.. systematic promotion of voluntary returns,

.. criminalisation of ‘irregular entry and/or stay’, within the limits of the ECJ case law,
.. systematic use of entry bans and for longer periods, and enhanced enforcement
through their introduction into the SIS."

And as "regards the concept of safe country of origin and safe third country"

– The speeding up of asylum procedures and tackling of abuse should be further addressed in the context of the ongoing examination in Council preparatory bodies of the Commission proposal for an Asylum Procedures' Regulation which aims at improving the rules on the procedural consequences of applying safe country concepts (Articles 44 - 50).

– In that same context, and in order to facilitate further convergence in the application of procedures and to deter secondary movements, priority should be given to the replacement of national safe country lists with EU lists, making it mandatory to use the concepts of first country of asylum and safe third country for rejecting applications as inadmissible, and to use the accelerated examination procedure."

And on refoulement:

"The Commission could examine how to interpret and apply this principle which would better take into account the circumstances prevailing in crisis situations." [emphasis added]

Draft Conclusions

The Draft Malta Declaration by the Members of the European Council on the external aspects of migration: addressing the Central Mediterranean route (pdf)

The request for a new legal interpretation of the refoulement principle "in crisis" is no longer mentioned, nor is the recommendation to MS to draw up national lists of safe third countries and first country of asylum does not appear as yet. However:

"We will further develop our external migration policy and make it resilient for future crises. We will therefore identify potential barriers, for example in relation to conditions to be met for returns, while respecting international law. We welcome the Commission's intention to rapidly present an updated Action Plan on Returns and to provide guidance for more operational returns by Member States and effective readmission using the flexibility available in the existing acquis. We will also continue to address this issue during the negotiations on the proposals to reform the Common European Asylum System." [emphasis added]

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