Council of Ministers: Immigration and Refugees

Delegates - 
 It is truly an honor to welcome you to YMGE. Our time together will give each of us new questions, novel thoughts, and fast friends. I look forward to using thoughtful discussion to consider how Europe should respond to the interconnected refugee and immigration crises; it should be our goal to have devised innovative, practical solutions to the challenges faced by migrants and by our community before week's end. I look forward to embarking on this quest for common ground and concrete solutions. If you have any questions or would like to talk, please do not hesitate to email me at 
  Simon, Ezra Stiles, Yale College '20

The Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers is not a body officially represented by the European Union, the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers at YMGE 2017 will follow the same procedures, rules, and guidelines set by the the European Union.

In the Immigration and Refugee Council, government ministers from each EU country meet to discuss, amend and adopt laws, and coordinate policies. The ministers have the authority to commit their governments to the actions agreed on in the meetings.

Together with the European Parliament, the Council is the main decision-making body of the EU. The Council:

“Negotiates and adopts EU laws, together with the European Parliament, based on proposals from the European Commission

Coordinates EU countries' policies

Develops the EU's foreign & security policy, based on European Council guidelines

Concludes agreements between the EU and other countries or international organisations

Adopts the annual EU budget - jointly with the European Parliament.”

Councils of the European Union meet with the goal of establishing a coordinated approach and facilitating agreements across European countries. The European Union, previously named the European Economic Community, was created in 1958 during the aftermath of World War II to increase economic interdependence and cooperation among European countries. However, what started as a purely economic venture gradually expanded to include political, humanitarian, and environmental initiatives. The Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers should be viewed as a further expansion of the European Union to include the important topics of immigration and refugee asylum.

Council Structure

 While the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers convenes as a Council of the European Union tasked with the goal of achieving a united immigration and refugee policy, each minister is defined by his or her country’s laws and procedures. The European Union is a conglomerate, but not all of its individual parts are the same. Ingenuity by each minister will be necessary to implement effective responses to crises.

The Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers will be modeled after the governing body of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), known as “The Council.” The Council meets once every year and can be called for a Special Session at the request of one third of its members during urgent situations. The roles of the The Council are loosely defined, so much of the policy falls upon the shoulders of the ministers to further the progress of immigration and refugees in Europe. Each member state of the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers is allotted one representative and one vote. Most decisions of the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers shall be decided by a simple majority vote; however, no vote stands unless a majority quorum is present. Decisions regarding the inner-workings of the Council require a two-thirds vote. For a general idea of the types of topics the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers will cover, I recommend that each minister research the United Nations Refugee Agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). During research, remember that the body is still a Council of the European Union, and its scope extends no farther than the countries within EU boundaries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom.

Mandate of the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers After World War II, immigration into Europe and between European countries significantly increased. A second wave of immigration, which continues to this day, began in the 1980s due to individuals from developing countries fleeing war, poverty, oppression, and natural disasters. The result is a sizeable immigrant population within Europe. However, the sheer number of immigrants and the extent of migrant movement are not the only factors that the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers must address. Europe is currently embroiled in a serious immigration crisis, specifically a crisis of illegal immigration.

Less than five years ago, European Union nations believed that they were beginning to assert control over asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. The numbers seemed to support the beliefs of EU nations. In 1992, 670,000 asylum applications were submitted to the European Union, and in 2006, the number fell to around 200,000.

However, beginning in 2010, Greece witnessed a sudden increase in illegal immigration into its borders from countries such as Afghanistan, Somalia, Algeria, and Iraq. FRONTEX, the European Union Agency charged to protect European Union borders, reported that in the span of six months in 2010, 38,000 undocumented persons had taken asylum in Greece. The upsurge in migration coincided with Greece’s financial crisis, and what started as merely an economic disaster turned into a humanitarian issue as well as undocumented families were forced into detention centers or the streets. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) declared that “the refugee status determination system in Greece does not operate properly. As a result, people needing international protection are not identified as such. This is a situation which should not exist in the European Union.” Unfortunately, the Arab Spring uprising and the Syrian conflict have prompted further illegal immigration into the European Union.

The immigration crisis in the European Union reached the full international community when, in October 2013, more than 300 African migrants died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa. Tens of thousands of Africans attempt to relocate to Italy each year in ramshackle rafts. The tragedy of the coast of Italy exposed the deep divide between European Union leaders about how to prevent further migration disasters.

However, the phenomenon developed into a full-on crisis in 2014-15. In 2014, European Union member states received 626,000 asylum applications, granting protection status to 185,000; this unprecedented level of asylum-seekers hadn’t been seen since 1992 (672,000), amidst the dissolution of Czechoslovakia and the outbreak of civil wars across then-Yugoslavia. Come 2015, the crisis expanded to levels unseen in history. In the first half of 2015 alone, the European Union received 395,000 applications for asylum status, 2/3 of which were directed to EU border states such as Germany, Italy and Hungary. The New York Times has estimated that there are currently 60 million displaced Rhetoric for the term “crisis” entered news on a massive level in April of 2015, when five boats carrying as many 2,000 migrants sank in the Mediterranean, killing 1,200.

According to BBC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of October 27 over 700,000 migrants have arrived by sea to the European Union. Germany is the highest-demand destination, receiving 220,000 applications for asylum-status through August. Hungary has received the second most applications, yet has received the largest volume of applications per capita, in proportion to the Hungarian population. As these graphics show, the majority of immigration has come from Syria, Kosovo, Albania and Iraq, and has been focused most intensely into Germany, Hungary, Austria, France and Switzerland. Ongoing conflict from the Syrian civil war is the largest and most devastating source of migration.

Particularly troubling questions each EU member state faces is managing border control operations along the Mediterranean; fighting migrant smuggling; proposing and managing quota systems for incoming migrants; and creating effective systems to relocate and resettle asylum seekers into inland EU nations, so that border nations like Germany and Hungary are not overwhelmed.

As Minister for Immigration and Refugees, each delegate is responsible for his or her country’s migration policies. Such responsibilities are variable and may include but are not limited to:

Monitoring immigration (how people enter a country) and emigration (how people leave a country)

Determining the requirements a foreigner must meet to receive citizenship within a country (legal recognition of a person’s status as a permanent member of a country)

Integrating or deporting irregular migrants, or individuals who enter a country without following the proper rules set out by laws

Locating and assisting victims of human trafficking. These victims are usually coerced into moving to a new location for commercial exploitation, and the act of human trafficking is an essential violation of human rights.

Resettling refugees (individuals who leaves his or her country to escape war, persecution, a natural disaster, or another conflict)

Handling extradition (a process in which a criminal is forced to return to the country where he or she committed the crime in order to go through a trial)

Staying connected with a diaspora (people from a particular country who move elsewhere)

Fighting xenophobia (bias and violence toward foreigners)

The key responsibility to remember during YMGE will be that this Council has the power to close borders as well as make recommendations pertaining to police cooperation in times of crisis. Following a crisis, quick and decisive action from the council will prove essential to advancing its goal of protecting Europe and all its citizens.

The Role of the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers in the Crisis The Council of Immigration and Refugees will play a central role in responding to any crisis. Even if a crisis situation does not directly involve a rise or complication in immigration, the enormous traffic of immigrants which the European Union is enduring and managing will complicate an existing problem.

Terrorist attacks, for example, have been a huge crisis throughout Europe in the past few years. While the Immigration and Refugees Council would not respond directly, it would most likely need to deal with a huge amount of backlash. Immigrants and refugees are often the first groups blamed for attacks, therefore consistent communication between this council and others is incredibly important. The Council should consider how to avoid isolating communities of New Europeans in the wake of ideological violence. The blame for terrorist attacks, which disproportionately falls on immigrant and refugee communities, can create homegrown radicals such as those who have participated in recent attacks in France and Belgium. Thus, the Council must take timely action to prevent radicalizing backlash in the wake of an attack.

The Immigration and Refugees Council should also work to create a comprehensive plan for helping to address ideological violence. This will prove vital in 1) preventing ideological violence and 2) protecting the communities we serve when they are most vulnerable to threats of oppression, exclusion, or expulsion.

Though this council may not have many options for direct response, it may need to do a lot of investigating or thorough policy analysis in order to prevent crises in the future. It’s not enough to create a blanket structure. Instead, this council should look at a broad array of topics and solutions.

The success of the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers relies on the advice of numerous government agencies and other national and international organizations.

Cooperating with Other Councils of Ministers by its very nature, immigration and emigration demand cooperation between nations: immigrants and emigrants move from one country to another. However, successful handling of asylum seekers, immigrants, and emigrants is impossible without further cooperation between European Union agencies, international organizations, and especially other Councils of Ministers. Since immigration and refugees is such a widespread topic that is affected by most national and international developments, coordination with other Councils of Ministers is essential for the success of the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers and YMGE. Example questions for interactions with other councils are provided below:

Economic and Financial Affairs: Since people often flee their home country for financial reasons, how can countries work to prevent sudden drops in GDP? How can member states balance budgetary needs while maximizing the aid and asylum they can provide to migrants?

Education, Youth, and Culture: What can member states do to increase the ease of assimilation and thus reduce discrimination and an otherness mentality against migrants? How can member states counter xenophobia? How does an upsurge in immigration into a particular country or in emigration out of a particular country affect a country's social fabric?

Energy: How many people rely on the energy industry for sources of jobs (to assess how a possible energy crisis will affect the financial situation of possible migrants)?

Environment: Since people often seek asylum after natural disasters, ministers should ask which countries are particularly susceptible to environmental disasters?

Food and Agriculture: How can a member state balance an increase in its migrant population without constraining food production, or at least the production of healthy and sustainable food? Is most produce cultivated locally/familially or do people tend to buy their produce from supermarkets that import much of their food from out of state?

Foreign Affairs: How should the European Union address war-torn nations that are the root of its migrant population, such as Syria? Which countries within the European Union countries? Which tend to disagree over the topics of immigration and refugees?

Health: People emigrate to achieve a better standard of living. What is the standard of living for different European Union and neighboring countries? What is life expectancy and infant mortality rates of such countries?

Justice and Home Affairs: How should refugees fleeing persecution, oppression, or war be handled? Which countries should be continuously monitored for further instabilities in domestic affairs?

Labor and Social Affairs: Which countries receive much of their labor from immigrants and which countries could possibly benefit from immigrant labor? How can this Council work to make sure employment levels are stable for migrants and locals?

Tourism: Nations with flourishing tourism industries can also be unfortunately accompanied by human traffickers to cater to tourists. What is the intersection of tourism and human trafficking, and how can European Union countries prevent the movement of human traffickers?

Transportation and Telecommunications: How can this Council work with the Council of Transportation of Telecommunications to devise an effective transportation system to balance the distribution of refugees in the European Union? Should the Council of Immigration and Refugees Ministers regulate transportation to achieve its goals?

Simon is extremely grateful to Aaminah Bhat, Branford, Yale College '18 for creating this topic guide and entrusting him with it.