European Union policies on onward and secondary movements of asylum seekers and refugees – CEPS


This report examines European Union policies designed to manage irregular movements of asylum seekers and refugees from certain countries in Africa and Asia, and what the EU calls “secondary movements” inside the Schengen area. It provides a detailed qualitative assessment of the EU migration management complex, i.e. the conglomeration of EU instruments and actors behind policies aimed at managing the unauthorized cross-border mobility of asylum seekers and refugees.

The report analyzes the conceptual and methodological biases behind the “push and pull migration theory” and the predominant use of “migration maps” depicting arrows symbolizing unauthorized human movement along seemingly linear and heading towards the EU. He proposes that these conceptual and visual tools should no longer be used and instead the focus should be on the roles and impacts of the EU migration management complex in co-creating and reproducing the very phenomena they seek to resolve, namely mobility between different regions of the world and within Europe.

The evaluation provides a multi-instrument and multi-actor review characterizing the policies the EU is currently implementing in both its external and internal dimensions. The analysis is accompanied by a set of visualizations and infographics illustrating the EU instruments and their main priorities. The report finds that EU policies co-create irregularity and unauthorized mobility of asylum seekers from certain non-European regions of the world. EU policies do not take into account individuals’ legitimate reasons for engaging (or not) in cross-border mobility and their agency for self-resettlement in the Schengen area. They discriminate against nationals of certain African and Asian countries in accessing genuine and effective legal entry mechanisms and the possibility of seeking asylum in the Union.

The report recommends the need to ensure systematic use of ex ante, ongoing and ex post human rights impact assessments and the establishment of an independent, transparent and effective monitoring mechanism, under the form of an EU observatory, to monitor the hyper-complexity emerging from EU external and internal migration policies, to ensure their accountability and consistency with the rule of law and fundamental human rights principles of the EU.

This report is part of the ITFLOWS H2020 project which received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement no. reflect only the views of the author and, therefore, the Agency is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.


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