The deal, which will see the burden of resettling refugees shared more widely among member states, was struck after EU leaders persuaded Italy, which wanted more aid to cope with the migrant crisis, not to veto it.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the deal took “long negotiation, but from today Italy is no longer alone.”
Leaders said that new migrant centres could be set up in EU countries on a “voluntary” basis.
These centres would process migrants to determine which are genuine refugees and which are “irregular migrants, who will be returned”, the text of their agreement says.
However, it was unclear which countries would volunteer to host the centres.
The joint communique also speaks of restricting the movement of asylum seekers between EU states, strengthening external border controls, and boosting financing for Turkey and countries in North Africa.
So-called “regional disembarkation platforms”, which are aimed at breaking the business model of people-smuggling gangs by processing refugees and migrants outside the EU, will also be “swiftly explored”.
However getting North African countries to host such centres could be very difficult and Morocco again on Thursday rejected the idea.
Here are the relevant sections of the deal:
1. The European Council reconfirms that a precondition for a functioning EU policy relies on a comprehensive approach to migration which combines more effective control of the EU’s external borders, increased external action and the internal aspects, in line with our principles and values. This is a challenge not only for a single Member State, but for Europe as a whole. Since 2015 a number of measures have been put in place to achieve the effective control of the EU’s external borders. As a result, the number of detected illegal border crossings into the EU has been brought down by 95% from its peak in October 2015, even if flows have been picking up recently on the Eastern and Western Mediterranean routes.
2. The European Council is determined to continue and reinforce this policy to prevent a return to the uncontrolled flows of 2015 and to further stem illegal migration on all existing and emerging routes.
3. As regards the Central Mediterranean Route, efforts to stop smugglers operating out of Libya or elsewhere should be further intensified. The EU will continue to stand by Italy and other frontline Member States in this respect. It will step up its support for the Sahel region, the Libyan Coastguard, coastal and Southern communities, humane reception conditions, voluntary humanitarian returns, cooperation with other countries of origin and transit, as well as voluntary resettlement. All vessels operating in the Mediterranean must respect the applicable laws and not obstruct operations of the Libyan Coastguard.
4. As regards the Eastern Mediterranean Route, additional efforts are needed to fully implement the EU-Turkey Statement, prevent new crossings from Turkey and bring the flows to a halt. The EU-Turkey readmission agreement and the bilateral readmission agreements should be fully implemented in a non-discriminatory manner towards all Member States. More efforts are urgently needed to ensure swift returns and prevent the development of new sea or land routes. Cooperation with, and support for, partners in the Western Balkans region remain key to exchange information on migratory flows, prevent illegal migration, increase the capacities for border protection and improve return and readmission procedures. In the light of the recent increase in flows in the Western Mediterranean, the EU will support, financially and otherwise, all efforts by Member States, especially Spain, and countries of origin and transit, in particular Morocco, to prevent illegal migration.
5. In order to definitively break the business model of the smugglers, thus preventing tragic loss of life, it is necessary to eliminate the incentive to embark on perilous journeys. This requires a new approach based on shared or complementary actions among the Member States to the disembarkation of those who are saved in Search And Rescue operations. In that context, the European Council calls on the Council and the Commission to swiftly explore the concept of regional disembarkation platforms, in close cooperation with relevant third countries as well as UNHCR and IOM. Such platforms should operate distinguishing individual situations, in full respect of international law and without creating a pull factor.
6. On EU territory, those who are saved, according to international law, should be taken charge of, on the basis of a shared effort, through the transfer in controlled centres set up in Member States, only on a voluntary basis, where rapid and secure processing would allow, with full EU support, to distinguish between irregular migrants, who will be returned, and those in need of international protection, for whom the principle of solidarity would apply. All the measures in the context of these controlled centres, including relocation and resettlement, will be on a voluntary basis, without prejudice to the Dublin reform.
7. The European Council agrees on launching the second tranche of the Facility for Refugees in Turkey and at the same time on transferring 500 million euro from the 11th EDF reserve to the EU Trust Fund for Africa. Member States are moreover called upon to contribute further to the EU Trust Fund for Africa with a view to its replenishment.
8. Tackling the migration problem at its core requires a partnership with Africa aiming at a substantial socio-economic transformation of the African continent building upon the principles and objectives as defined by the African countries in their Agenda 2063. The European Union and its Member States must rise to this challenge. We need to take the extent and the equality of our cooperation with Africa to a new level. This will not only require increased development funding but also steps towards creating a new framework enabling a substantial increase of private investment from both Africans and Europeans. Particular focus should be laid on education, health, infrastructure, innovation, good governance and women’s empowerment. Africa is our neighbour and this must be expressed by increased exchanges and contacts amongst the peoples of both continents on all levels of civil society. Cooperation between the European Union and the African Union is an important element of our relationship. The European Council calls for further developing and promoting it.
9. In the context of the next Multiannual Financial Framework, the European Council underlines the need for flexible instruments, allowing for fast disbursement, to combat illegal migration. The internal security, integrated border management, asylum and migration funds should therefore include dedicated, significant components for external migration management.
10. The European Council recalls the need for Member States to ensure the effective control of the EU’s external borders with EU financial and material support. It also underlines the necessity to significantly step up the effective return of irregular migrants. In both respects, the supportive role of FRONTEX, including in the cooperation with third countries, should be further strengthened through increased resources and an enhanced mandate. It welcomes the intention of the Commission to make legislative proposals for a more effective and coherent European return policy.
11. Concerning the situation internally in the EU, secondary movements of asylum seekers between Member States risk jeopardising the integrity of the Common European Asylum System and the Schengen acquis. Member States should take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures to counter such movements and to closely cooperate amongst each other to that end.
12. As regards the reform for a new Common European Asylum System, much progress has been achieved thanks to the tireless efforts of the Bulgarian and previous Presidencies. Several files are close to finalisation. A consensus needs to be found on the Dublin Regulation to reform it based on a balance of responsibility and solidarity, taking into account the persons disembarked following Search And Rescue operations. Further examination is also required on the Asylum Procedures proposal. The European Council underlines the need to find a speedy solution to the whole package and invites the Council to continue work with a view to concluding as soon as possible. There will be a report on progress during the October European Council.