Despite budget cuts, members of the European Parliament defended the cause of migrants in their negotiations with the states on the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund for 2014-2020. After the vote by the Committee on Civil Liberties (LIBE), on 9 January, the total budget comes to 3.1 billion (down from 3.8 billion proposed by the European Commission). This represents an increase of nearly 50% from 2007 to 2013, but it will have to finance more activities.
In a tense context due to the tragedies of migrants perishing in the Mediterranean and the sometimes deplorable living conditions of asylum seekers in the Union, the EP prevailed over states' reluctance to set minimum amounts to be spent:
- of the 2.4 billion that member states will share to finance their national programmes(1), at least 20% will have to be spent on support for legal migration and the effective integration of migrants.
- at least an additional 20% must be allocated to asylum measures. Exceptions will be possible but national authorities will have to provide detailed explanations to the Commission. States with weaknesses in this area, such as Greece - singled out by the European Court of Human Rights for its unacceptable reception conditions - may not spend less than the minimum, however.
Another victory for the EP is to oblige the states to involve NGOs and international migration organisations in determining how EU funds will be spent. The states will remain free to define the practical arrangements of their programmes.
"This fund theoretically has the potential to be positive for refugees and asylum seekers since it permits a number of activities, in particular alternatives to detention. In practice, though, everything will depend on the will of member states and the Commission to finance programmes to this effect," commented Laurent Aldenhoff, expert at the European Council for Refugees and Exiles (ECRE). He nevertheless regrets the possibility to use EU funds to finance detention centres, as well as the negative impact of cuts on the European refugee resettlement programme.
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