New Pact on Migration and Asylum: reporting on developments and stepping up fight against migrant exploitation

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This article is brought to you in association with the European Commission.

One year on from the adoption of the proposal for a New Pact on Migration and Asylum, the Commission is today presenting a Report on Migration and Asylum.

The Commission is also adopting a renewed EU action plan against migrant smuggling and a Communication on the application of the Employers Sanctions Directive. As part of the comprehensive approach to migration under the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, these initiatives aim to prevent organised exploitation of migrants and reduce irregular migration, in coherence with the New Pact’s aim to promote sustainable and orderly management of migration. The initiatives will address both persistent challenges in dismantling organised criminal groups, as well as the need to adapt to new challenges including state-sponsored migrant smuggling, in response to the situation at the EU’s external borders with Belarus.

Vice-President for Promoting our European Way of Life Margaritis Schinas said: “Last week marked one year since we put our proposals on the table for a New Pact on Migration and Asylum. Whilst progress on their adoption has been painfully slow, at the same time, migratory challenges have continued to arise in forms new and old. From continued pressure in the Central Mediterranean, to a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and new pressure on our Eastern borders, all of these developments show the imperative need for a sustainable European asylum and migration framework. The Pact proposals, if adopted, could greatly improve Member States’ ability to deal with a whole range of issues currently faced. And if we have learnt anything in recent years, it should be that flying solo on these issues is not an option. Now is the time to come together around solutions.”

Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said: “We’ve made important progress on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, and recent events underline the urgency of making progress on our carefully balanced proposals: the screening and Eurodac proposals will allow for proper checks of all those arriving in the EU while being complimented by  our proposals on solidarity. Agreeing on our resettlement framework regulation will help Europe have a stronger voice on the global scene by showing how we and Member States are practically offering protection to people in need. We have balance, now we need delivery.”

Report on migration and asylum: New Pact, one year on

Today’s report takes stock of progress achieved and key developments in migration and asylum policy over the past year and a half, identifies the key challenges, and highlights the prospects for progress, setting out the steps that will lead to a more robust, viable and fair migration and asylum policy.

It covers all aspects of migration management. It includes a state of play of migratory movements, takes stock of the impact of the pandemic, covers the action by EU agencies on border management and on asylum, the continuous support provided by the Commission to Member States under pressure, funding and the issue of unauthorised movements within the EU. It highlights the EU’s immediate response to the situation in Afghanistan, the EU’s support to Greece, and the reaction to arrivals from Belarus. It provides details on progress in strengthening the legislative framework and gives a full overview of cooperation with partner countries, on the basis of the new approach set out in the Pact. The report also looks at progress on integration and inclusion.

The EU has taken many actions to improve its capacity to live up to the evolving challenges of migration management. Swift and constructive progress on the legislative files under the New Pact is now crucial and will serve to further strengthen Europe’s ability to protect its borders, receive those who have a right to come in humane conditions as well as treat those who do not enjoy this right with dignity, in line with EU values and principles.

Renewed EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2021-2025)

Preventing and fighting migrant smuggling is a key strategic objective of the New Pact on Migration and Asylum and the EU Security Union Strategy that requires continuous international cooperation and coordination. Building on the progress made by the first EU action plan against migrant smuggling (2015-2020), the Commission working together with the High Representative will:

  • Develop Anti-Smuggling Operational Partnerships with concrete tools as part of comprehensive, balanced, tailor-made and mutually beneficial migration partnerships, further building on trust and mutual cooperation.
  • Further develop all operational, legal, diplomatic and financial tools at the EU’s disposal to respond to the instrumentalisation of irregular migration by State actors, including by taking consequential measures in various policy areas i.e. visa, trade, development, financial assistance and others. The partial suspension of the Visa Facilitation Agreement with Belarus, which the Commission is proposing today, is an example of such measures.
  • Improve the implementation of the legal framework for sanctioning smugglers; including through the UN Protocol on Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and, within the EU, the ‘Facilitators package’.
  • Improve the implementation of the legal framework for protection from exploitation; including the Anti-trafficking Directive, Victims’ Rights Directive, Residence Permit Directive and the Employers Sanctions Directive.
  • Respond to evolving online practices and tools that facilitate smuggling, through enhanced operational cooperation and information exchange between national authorities and EU agencies.
  • Increase research and data collection for a better understanding of migration trends, the nature and span of criminal networks, the impact of anti-smuggling policies and the ‘modus operandi’ of criminal networks.

Communication reporting on the application of the Employers Sanctions Directive

Illegal employment is a key incentive for irregular migration. It is damaging both from a human and an economic perspective, exposing people to risks of exploitation as well as leading to losses in public finances and driving down individual and social rights.

The Employers Sanctions Directive provides a European legal framework to prevent and respond to the illegal employment of irregular migrants. Today’s report identifies actions to improve how the directive is put into practice, to address Member States’ inefficient use of the rules on sanctions, protective measures and inspections to detect abusive employers and protect migrants from exploitation. To support Member States in improving the implementation of the commonly agreed EU rules, the Commission will:

  • Promote dialogue with Member States’ authorities and various stakeholders, including through the relaunch of its dedicated Irregular Migration Expert Group on the Employers Sanctions Directive in 2021.
  • Support sharing of good practices by working with stakeholders such as national labour and immigration authorities, trade unions, civil society organisations, social partners, international organisations and the European Platform tackling undeclared work.
  • Continuously monitor the implementation of the Directive and focus on its effective enforcement, launching infringement proceedings if appropriate.

By the end of 2022, the Commission will implement the measures presented in the Communication and report on the results achieved in the next implementation report due in 2024 at the latest. In light of progress achieved, the Commission will then consider whether amendments to the existing legal framework are warranted.


Today’s set of proposals is one of the follow-up actions to the Pact as announced last September.

In addition to the data provided in the report on migration and asylum, new statistical information is also available on a dedicated statistics webpage updated today. Recent figures confirm that the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on migration in 2020, with the number of both legal and irregular arrivals decreasing compared to 2019. Provisional data shows that the EU population shrunk by about 300,000 people in 2020, partly due to less net migration but also due to an increased number of deaths due to the pandemic. The decrease in arrivals in 2020 was temporary, as available 2021 data point towards a year-on-year increase. This is the case, in particular, for irregular arrivals on the Central Mediterranean, Western Mediterranean and Eastern borders routes (from Belarus). Member States continued to reduce the backlog of asylum applications: at the end of June, about 700,000 applications were pending in the EU, the lowest level since mid-2015.

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