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Patterns and developments in migration flows -- Olaf Reermann

Patterns and developments in migration flows


The reasons for flight are largely identical with the major political questions of our time and well known. UNHCR calls these movements "forced migration".

On the one side there are:

economic underdevelopment and overpopulation,
ecological crises and resulting famines,
violations of human rights, intolerance and use of violence,
war and civil war
suppression of minorities.

On the other side there are:

relative prosperity in the states of the western world,
a free way of living in these states and independence of the courts,
social security systems including adequate health care and developed school and education systems also for the benefit of foreign children,
a thriving grey market (shadow economy). Irrespective of their education illegally resident persons find employment in low-paid jobs which are unattractive for the local population, above all in the sectors of agriculture, catering and housework as well as in the building sector, mostly so-called 3-D jobs: dirty, dangerous and difficult.

The gap between the poor developing states and the industrialized nations will even grow. The migration pressure results from the demographic and social disparity between these states and the other major regions of the world and increases rapidly. It is due to the extremely high birth rate which even in countries with relatively remarkable productivity increases consumes any overall proceeds before they can be used beneficially for the progress of these countries. According to the assessment of experts Turkey and Egypt, for instance, would have to create one million new jobs every year over a period of ten years in order to provide for the increasing number of labour.

The migration flows are facilitated by comprehensive information systems (the media, especially TV, and telephone communications), In addition, there are manifold possibilities of travelling by air, sea and land which allow people to move from one place to another within a relatively short time and at low prices - which results in intercontinental movements.

Fall of the Iron Curtain and the failure of socialism and the resulting economic, social ecological differences between East and West, and the view initially held by the Central and East European states that they merely were transit states and did not have to take efficient precautions against migration flows.

It is true that the expected mass movements of millions of migrants from the former Soviet Union and its former sphere of influence to Western Europe has not occurred so far. But we have to get used to the idea that the increasing democratization in these countries will lead to migration. The people who are now free from administrative constraints and live within open borders are also interested in achieving economic improvements as rapidly as possible by migrating to the countries of Western Europe. What they want is progress and having their share right now, not only in 20 or 30 years.

In addition, we observe considerable migration of nationals from South-East Asia and the Middle East through the territory of the Russian Federation. IOM has found out that starting from the early 1990s, migrants from Africa, South-East Asia and the Middle East (particularly from China, Afghanistan and Iraq) began arriving in the Russian Federation, hoping to proceed further to Western Europe or North America. According to the FMS, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 illegal migrants from 52 different countries presently live in the Russian Federation. In Moscow alone, up to 250,000 Asians, including Chinese and Sri-Lankan Tamils, are estimated to be waiting for traffickers to arrange their travel to the West. In addition, about 150,000 Afghans are living illegally in the Moscow area. Since crossing into Western Europe has become more difficult, many would-be transit migrants find themselves trapped in the Russian Federation.

The disintegration and tragedy of former Yugoslavia.
Over 700,000 people have fled to the countries of Western Europe because of the conflict. Due to its geographical proximity but also because about 700,000 Yugoslavs were already resident in Germany at that time, Germany has admitted more than half of the refugees.

Due to the Iron Curtain it was not possible for the Federal Republic of Germany to recruit labour from the Eastern part of Germany or the neighbouring states in the East, especially Poland or Czechoslovakia, as this was the case before WW II and the setting up of the eastward border fortifications.

At the time of the economic boom in the fifties and sixties, treaties on the recruitment of labour were therefore concluded with more distant countries, among them Turkey and Yugoslavia. After the first oil crisis in 1973 and the recognition that further economic expansion was not possible and the resulting cancellation of the recruitment treaties in late 1973, some 900,000 Turkish nationals and some 700,000 Yugoslav nationals stayed in Germany. On 31 December 1990, in comparison, some 1.7 million Turkish nationals and approx. 7000,000 Yugoslavs were resident in Germany, whereas on 31 December 1996 these figures amounted to over 2 millions for Turkish and 1.4 millions for Yugoslav nationals.

This shows that against the background of the different economic and social situation there was an increased readiness of jobseekers to enter the economically attractive Germany either legally or illegally.

Since the ban on recruitment in November 1973, Turkey and, since its collapse, Yugoslavia have been the main countries of origin of asylum applicants; with an annual number of some 20,000 asylum seekers from each country since the early nineties (see table in the annex). In addition, there is an unknown quota of illegal immigration, i.e. of persons who entered our country illegally but do not plead political persecution in order to claim a right to stay and live with their friends or relatives.

But also apart from the states mentioned before Germany is specifically concerned by the influx of asylum seekers and illegal immigration. To illustrate this, I will give you a few figures:

In 1985 about 44% of all asylum applicants in West Europe sought refuge in the Federal Republic of Germany. In 1990, this percentage ran to 45%, to 65% in 1992 and to as much as 48% in 1996. Germany's share in the number of new asylum seekers within the European Union was 43% in 1987, 59% in 1991, 79% in 1992, 49% in 1995 and dropped to 53% in 1996. With regard to the inflow of asylum seekers in Western Europe since 1990 I may refer you to the table in annex 2.

The industrialised states of the Western world cannot be happy with the uncontrolled migration flows to and within Europe, but neither can the countries of origin be satisfied with this development, as they need especially the young and qualified labour for their economic reorganisation and development. Migration movements in the existing dimension may constitute a threat to the political stability in Europe.

This is why issues of refugee and migration policy have become an essential area of close political cooperation of the states united in the EU. The Treaty of Maastricht lays down asylum policy as well as migration policy and policy vis-à-vis third country nationals as being "matters of common interest" of the Member States.

Since the conclusion of the Treaty of Amsterdam asylum law, immigration policy, visa policy, external frontier regulations as well as repatriation policy are communitised, i.e. transferred into Community competence. This means that a uniform legal basis can be created for the measures so far taken against illegal immigration. It is true that the resolutions so far adopted by the EU were politically significant declarations of intent which above all in the field of asylum policy have laid to a harmonisation of the asylum law of the Member States. But they could not prevent that 15 different national legislations continued to exist which necessarily resulted in 15 different national practices. The past has shown that the EU needs common harmonised legal provisions and thus a safe guarantee that the joint legal position will also be applied in a uniform manner in practice. It is only by communitisation that the acceptancy of a joint asylum and immigration policy is ensured. Far-reaching communitisation as embodied in the Treaty of Amsterdam provides specific advantages in the following areas:

Asylum policy
Communitisation means that the competence to pass legislation is transferred to the European Community. Legislation in the field of asylum procedures, for instance by an EC regulation, would be immediately binding upon the Member States and have priority over national legislation.
Communitisation does not mean the creation of a European asylum bureaucracy. The implementation of European asylum regulations, administrative competence, would continue to rest with the Member States. In comparison with harmonisation by an international treaty of the Member States, communitisation has the following advantages:

Communitisation would strengthen the role of the Commission. It would facilitate the introduction of common regulations against the particular interests of individual Member States.

If a asylum policy would be made a community matter, lengthy ratification procedures would no longer be necessary. An international law convention of the Member States would not enter into force before the ratification procedure was completed in all Member States. A clear example is the Dublin Convention, which was signed as early as 1990, but did not enter into force before 1 July 1997.

If asylum policy were made a community matter, the European Court of Justice would have jurisdiction. This would allow a uniform interpretation of European asylum regulations.

Putting asylum law in the competence of the European Union would also be important for the implementation of the Dublin Convention. The provisions governing responsibility under the Dublin Convention determine that only one single Member State is responsible for examining an application for asylum lodged in the territory of the Member States. It is understood that the asylum procedures in the Member States are based on common legal standards. This mutual confidence is enhanced by communitising asylum legislation. The result of communitisation is that an asylum application is adjudicated on the basis of equivalent procedures and largely uniform criteria throughout Europe.

It is true that the Member States have adopted several texts to this end, which however are not legally binding. To name just a few, I may refer to the resolution of November 1992 on manifestly unfounded application for asylum, the principle of the safe third country and the safe country of origin. They are completed by resolutions of June 1995 with regard to minimum standards for asylum procedures and the common position of March 1996 regarding the harmonised application of the definition of the term "refugee" in Article 1 of the Geneva Convention of 28 July 1951 on the legal status of refugees.

These resolutions have also brought about a harmonisation of the asylum law of the Member States. Germany, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom for instance have introduced the principle of the safe country of origin and the safe third state in their national asylum legislation. Nevertheless there are considerable differences. It is therefore necessary to seek a legally binding harmonisation by means of making this a matter of community law. Communitisation is the only means to ensure, in the long run, the acceptancy of a common asylum policy and corresponding procedures agreed between the Member States of the EU.

Communitisation of visa policy
Communitisation of the visa policy concerning the existing common list of states for which a visa requirement exists and with regard to the uniform design of visa is an important step to control immigration into the territory of the EU.

Only communitising the entire issue of visa policy can counteract the misuse of visa. Important aspects are:

uniform requirements for the granting of visa,
exchange of data between the embassies of the Member States on "black sheep" among the visa applicants;
exchange of data on persons in the Member States who fraudulently pretend to be the "hosts" of persons applying for visa,
enhancing cooperation among the consulates up to the establishment of joint visa issuing offices of the Member States.

This is the only way to prevent, for instance, that a Russian national whose application for a visa was turned down by the German Embassy in Moscow is granted a Schengen visa two days later by the Spanish Embassy, which also entitles him to entry into Germany.

Sanctions against carriers and enhanced security measures at the borders as well as fighting illegal immigration networks and traffickers operating on international scale

Uniform regulations for return
Uncompromising return of illegally resident foreigners is the central issue in fighting illegal immigration. Communitising the rules for the return of third country nationals illegally resident in the EU Member States therefore is an important means to make headway in this field. Illegals often use a very special form of "securing" their stay, namely by destroying their travel documents. When doing so, they rightly expect that it will not be possible to return them to their home countries in case their asylum application is turned down. The aim of joint action by the EU Member States must be to persuade problematic states to cooperate in that they issue the requisite travel documents and do not impede the return of their nationals. On the European scale it is important to develop a policy and to combine the conclusion of association agreements of the EC and third countries with their readiness to cooperate when it comes to readmitting their own nationals - a so-called integrated approach, a combination of economic assistance, development aid as well as fighting illegal immigration by the readmission of own nationals illegally resident in the Member States.

Introduction of the principal of an "intelligent border"
This means close cooperation with the neighbouring states, intensification of the dialogue with the aim of fighting illegal immigration. This also includes confirming the principle of good neighbourly relations, i.e. preventing the transit movement of persons not holding the requisite valid travel documents for entering the neighbouring country. But this also means closer cooperation with the neighbouring states which now no longer are merely transit states, but are becoming receiving states, in order to help them to cope with the problems of illegal immigration. The European Union must seek with determination to establish an intensive cooperation with these states, including the granting of financial assistance which is to help bring about the following:

setting up an infrastructure for the reception of refugees and the implementation of asylum procedures,
increasing protection of the borders,
enhancing public security,
support in the implementation of return measures.

It is alarming that illegal immigration networks have recently been trying to undermine the mechanisms of the Dublin Convention.

On the basis of objective criteria the Dublin Convention lays down which Member State is responsible for examining an application for asylum lodged in a Member State of the EU. In addition it is our intention to prevent or, at least to make it more difficult, for asylum applicants to lodge several asylum applications in various Member States at the same time or subsequently.

Where the asylum applicant neither holds a residence permit nor a visa of one of the Member States of the European Union and where the asylum applicant has entered illegally by land, sea or air, the responsibility for examining his asylum application lies with the Member States at the external frontier of which the alien has entered the territory of the Member States.

In the intention to evade the purposes of this multilateral readmission agreement sui generis aimed at burden-sharing between the EU Member States, the alien who has crossed the external frontier of a Member State deliberately does not lodge an application for asylum there, and neither does he in the countries through which he moves on. He does not apply for asylum before he reaches his desired country of destination, or when he becomes conspicuous in controls in this country of destination. These persons deliberately benefit from the fact that checks at the internal borders of most Schengen states have been abolished with the entry into force of the Schengen Agreement in March 1996, or - for Austria and Italy - will be abolished from 1 April 1998 onwards. In order to prevent being returned, these asylum seekers destroy their travel documents as well as other evidence from which conclusions might be drawn as to where they have entered the EU.

This is the present pattern of illegal immigration followed preferably by Kurds from Iraq via Turkey which is the focal issue of the current policy of almost all EU and Schengen states, but also affects various countries in Central and Eastern Europe. This immigration is alarming above all because many of the people concerned are politically persecuted and obstacles under international law, especially Art. 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, make it impossible to return them to Iraq. In addition to the resulting residence authorisation, which can be taken as granted under such circumstances, Germany's generous social assistance scheme is one of the main reasons for asylum seekers to choose Germany as their destination. In contrast to the all-round care provided by the German social assistance law, Greece does not grant any public assistance, Italy makes available only very limited financial support for a maximum period of 45 days and France a payment of some 1.300 francs for a maximum of 1 year, which are to cover all expenses incl. accommodation.

This is why Germany has had to cope with considerable increase rates over the past three years: while in 1995, only 679 illegal entries of Kurds were registered in 1995, this number went up to 4.230 until November 1997. There is the same marked trend for asylum seekers from Iraq: figures increased from 1.246 applications in 1993 to 2.066 in 1994, 6.880 in 1995, 10.842 in 1996 and as many as 14.088 in 1997. The most recent clear increase especially becomes obvious when we compare the monthly figures of persons apprehended by the Federal Border Police in 1997. While some 250 - 300 persons were arrested every month of the first half of the year, the number ran to 673 in November, with 446 arrests at Schengen internal frontiers, above all in the Franco-German border area. About 60 per cent of the immigrants were brought into Germany by traffickers.

The main route used by over 50 per cent of Iraqi Kurds goes through Turkey, Greece, Italy, France to Germany and partly on to the Netherlands and Scandinavia.
Another alternative goes from Istanbul through Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary and Czechoslovakia, from there through Czechia, Austria or Poland to Germany (see Annex 3 - Trafficking Routes; Illegal immigrants from Turkey).

In cooperation with Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden, Germany has responded to this development and adopted a bundle of measures in agreement with the partner states in the framework of the EU and Schengen in order to prevent that the illegal immigration mechanisms described above become an established practice which would require great efforts to eliminate later on. It would be going too far to set out the various measures in detail (see Annex 4: Measures agreed on the occasion of the police conference in Rome on 8 January 1998). In order to be able to apply the Dublin Convention effectively also in the future, two measures are indispensable to prevent the convention being circumvented by deliberate manipulation of traffickers' organisations. The measures must include the following:

Third country nationals who have crossed the borders illegally also have to be fingerprinted and their data have to be stored and processed in a central data base,

EURODAC, i.e. the envisaged ADP-assisted dactyloscopic collection and information system of the European Union, should not only include asylum applicants, but also extend to illegals and be communitised as rapidly as possible after the entry into force of the Treaty of Amsterdam.

Improvements must be made when transforming the Dublin Convention, which is an international law instrument signed before the entry into fore of the Maastricht Treaty, into the mechanisms of the Amsterdam Treaty, for instance an amendment imposing an obligation of readmission also upon the neighbouring third state through the territory of which the asylum applicant has demonstrably entered illegally and not allowing that state to refuse readmission by pleading that the apprehended illegal alien did not cross its external borders in the intention to enter the territory of the EU. Instead of amending the Dublin Convention another option would be to conclude a multilateral readmission agreement of the EU Member States. One must, however, bear in mind that such a readmission agreement can only have a limited effect against the background of the abolition of checks at the internal borders of the Schengen Member States.


Sustainable success in the field of immigration and asylum police can only be achieved by further improvement of transfrontier cooperation between the EU Member States. Putting these areas under Community competence is a first promising approach. Further progress, however, can only be ensured if all EU Member States actually declare their political will to make headway in this direction.

Cooperation of the EU Member States in the field of asylum and immigration policy is of vital importance. But in addition, the international community, together with the EU, has to develop strategies for more effectively combatting the reasons of flight in the countries of origin - such as famine, misery, poverty, wars and overpopulation. For remedying the reasons of flight it is necessary to coordinate the use of foreign policy instruments, development cooperation, economic assistance and asylum policy. At its meeting in Edinburgh in December 1992 the European Council adopted a declaration on the principles for the external aspects of immigration policy which should serve as guidance for further action in this field. Only if these objectives are achieved the worldwide migration movements which affect Europe so massively can be countered in the long run. But with regard to putting these measures into practice, the European Union, too, only is at the very beginning.