The Szazadveg Foundation’s director of research, Balazs Orban published an article about the key developments regarding migration in 2017 in the foundation’s Focusing on Hungary newsletter; in his own words, to give an opportunity to assess the prevailing trends in irregular migration to Europe, as well as policy developments on both an EU and member states level.
High migration potential, less intense influx to Europe: “The number of potential migrants surrounding Europe remained high throughout the year, leaving the continent as one of the most attractive regions globally”, Orban wrote, adding that “the lower intensity is predominantly explained by the fact that 2017 is the first year when the moderating impact of the EU-Turkey agreement and the closing of borders (together with the Hungarian border fence) in the Balkans has fully prevailed”.
Italy regains control: In 2017, Italy found itself alone in a chaotic situation, worsened by the well-organized operation of smuggler networks, Orban recalled. Later, he highlighted, Italy decided to take control of the situation: “entered into several cooperation agreements with their Libyan partner in the field of border control and management. Italy also prepared an obligatory code of conduct for the NGOs engaged in search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean. Following these and other measures, the number of arrivals significantly dropped in August and stabilized at a moderate level”.
Signs of new routes emerging: “Since the main migratory routes remained blocked and Italy was also eventually able to manage their situation, migrants and smugglers began seeking alternative routes to Europe in the second half of 2017”, Orban recalled. He explained that there are signs of alternative routes emerging, including the ones from Tunisia to Italy, from Algeria to Spain (through Morocco) and from Turkey to Romania (through the Black Sea).
Hungary completes the reform of its asylum system: Orban recalled that in 2015 Hungary, being the number one transit country, built a fence on its Southern border. The first phase of the Hungarian crisis management was finished in 2016 (with the introduction of the so-called ‘8 km rule’). “According to the amendments adopted in March 2017, asylum applicants shall now reside in the area of the transit zone until their cases are judged (they are free to leave for Serbia at any time)”, he wrote. “Despite heavy criticism from international organizations and NGOs, there is clear evidence that the changes work in practice and have resulted in a balanced, stable and sustainable asylum system”, Orban wrote.
Evolution of the relocation scheme: ” The mandatory relocation scheme adopted in September 2015 proved to be a clear failure (even if the European Court of Justice decided to dismiss the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary against this scheme). Despite this fact, EU institutions – and the leaders of several member states – still consider it to be an effective tool in managing the consequences of irregular migration”, Orban wrote. He recalled the various plans of the Slovak, the Maltese and the Estonian, concluding that this issue will remain one of the number one items on the EU’s agenda
Source: Szazadveg Foundation