From Tampere 20 to Tampere 2.0: Towards a new programme for EU migration and asylum policies. Statement by Filippo Grandi, Helsinki, 24 October 2019

Mr. Chairman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am grateful to the Finnish Presidency, the European Migration Network, the European Policy Centre and the Odysseus Network for convening this conference.

The response to movements of refugees and migrants continues to generate very divisive political debates – both in Europe and in other parts of the world. It continues to test European common values in a manner that was not imagined when the Tampere Conclusions were adopted twenty years ago.

And yet, much of the vision that shaped their call for a common asylum and migration policy remains valid today.

A comprehensive approach addressing political, human rights and development issues in countries of origin and transit, working in partnership with those countries.

A Common European Asylum System founded on the recognition that protecting those fleeing war and persecution relies on regional and international cooperation.

Fair treatment of third country nationals that favours integration and respect for rights, and responds to racism and xenophobia.

And effective management of migration flows that prevents exposure to trafficking and exploitation.  

In pursuing this vision over the last two decades, the European Union has provided a global example; showing how a regional approach to refugee protection can be made to work, upholding and building on international standards. The right to asylum was embedded in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. The Common European Asylum System became a reality, painstakingly constructed through a framework of EU law. A ground-breaking subsidiary protection regime was developed, along with innovative shared data systems for identifying and documenting asylum seekers.

The Tampere Conclusions, and the work that followed, helped inform and shape the two Global Compacts affirmed by the United Nations General Assembly in December last year – one on refugees, and one on safe, regular and orderly migration. These were developed in tandem, albeit through different processes and with different aims – reflecting the importance of working on migration and asylum together, especially in the context of ‘mixed’ population flows.

This approach is reflected in the strong partnership between UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration. I thank Antonio Vitorino for this.

However, certain core aspects of the Tampere vision were not realized. This became evident in 2015-16, in the inadequate response to the surge in arrivals through the eastern Mediterranean. Elements that had been envisioned but not implemented, such as a temporary protection regime supported by a financial reserve for situations of mass influx, could have strengthened the response. Instead, the failure of European solidarity at that point – despite strong and principled leadership within the EU and by some member states – and the consequent failure to mount an effective shared response, shook public confidence and allowed for the emergence of damaging narratives.  

These continue to challenge the Tampere vision today, as some of those who aspire to political leadership cynically exploit legitimate anxieties around jobs, security, and identity –pushing people who are themselves excluded from the benefits of globalization against refugees and migrants. Pitting exclusion against exclusion is not only cynical and immoral - it does not offer practical solutions to either, it erodes refugee protection and it fails to address the root causes of mixed population flows, or the challenges of integration. The consequences – lives lost at sea as search and rescue operations are abandoned; a transactional approach to refugees as commodities to be traded between states; policies of deterrence which deflect responsibility beyond Europe’s borders – all these run counter to the Tampere vision.

Fortunately, there is also a countervailing trend – one reflected in the examples of solidarity with refugees that have emerged across many parts of European society over the last few years, and which found expression at the highest political level in the Global Compact on Refugees. This, I believe, provides a powerful set of tools to address refugee flows, based on the principle of shared responsibility. They resonate with the ambition, reflected twenty years ago in the Tampere Conclusions, can help shape the ‘Tampere 2.0’ agenda that we are here to discuss today.  

With that in mind, I wish to propose five key directions.

First, we need a truly global approach that addresses the root causes of refugee flows. Refugees are displaced by conflict, violence and persecution. They do not leave their countries out of choice. This calls for concerted action to prevent violent conflict from emerging, and to identify and accelerate solutions. In certain circumstances the root causes of conflict – inequality, exclusion, poor governance and climate change – can also drive irregular migration flows. I therefore urge the EU and its Member States to continue work to pursue a comprehensive approach to encompass the internal and external aspects of asylum and migration, as foreseen in the Joint Valletta Action Plan.  With special attention to Africa.

Protecting refugees and the internally displaced is vital. But this must be accompanied by a deeper, more strategic and wider scope of action that cuts across the political, security, migration and development spheres.

Second, arrangements for burden and responsibility-sharing with the countries and communities hosting large refugee populations, and with transit countries, must be deepened. Some 85% of refugees are hosted in poorer regions and middle income countries. The new European Commission will initiate consultations on a new Pact on Migration and Asylum. Solidarity with refugee-hosting countries – including through increased humanitarian and more strategic development support – should be a key element. Transit countries also need support to develop their asylum systems.

Resettlement must should also be stepped up. This saves lives and offers stability to refugees most in need of protection, and sends a powerful message of shared responsibility. We appreciate the efforts under way to admit 50,000 refugees by the end of the year, and look forward to the implementation of the 30,000 places already pledged for 2020.

Third, solidarity within Europe must be enhanced, to preserve rescue at sea, and ensure access to asylum. I welcome the efforts under way by several Member States, with the support of the Finnish Presidency and the European Commission, to expand the current ad hoc disembarkation arrangements into a more reliable mechanism. Together with IOM, we have put forward some concrete proposals. At the same time, efforts to strengthen cooperation on disembarkation across the Mediterranean basin – other than Libya, which cannot be considered a place of safety – must also continue.

 ‘Tampere 2.0’ should include a broader, permanent arrangement to facilitate solidarity among EU Member States on responsibility for asylum seekers, including through relocation arrangements. Fair and fast procedures are needed, to quickly determine who is in need of protection. More systematic compliance with the Common European Asylum System, including on reception and protection standards, would avoid push factors and reduce onward movement. And much more robust arrangements are needed to facilitate the return of people who are found not to be in need of protection. These are essential to ensuring public trust in asylum procedures.

Fourth, asylum systems and integration both need resourcing. The current arrangement for substantial portions of the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund to be set aside for asylum-related activities and integration is a good model. We particularly encourage investments in partnerships with civil society actors, refugee and migrant-led organizations, and local and regional authorities.

Fifth, the Tampere 2.0 vision should include a concerted effort to eradicate statelessness. At a recent high-level event held as part of UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting, 64 governments made pledges in this respect, including EU Member States. The EU could play a pivotal role through a comprehensive EU strategy and an action plan to address statelessness within the EU and beyond – including in the context of EU enlargement, and by supporting civil registration and documentation systems in third countries.            

The first-ever Global Refugee Forum, to be convened in Geneva in December, will be an important moment in which we chart a path forward for the implementation of the Global Compact on Refugees through concrete pledges. In striving to implement the Tampere vision, the European Union and its Member States will undoubtedly continue to be important partners in this global effort.

This will send an important message to refugee hosting countries – and refugees themselves – around the world, showing that beyond the damaging, unilateral approaches that sometimes capture the headlines, a commitment to addressing refugee flows through international solidarity, principles and pragmatic approaches still prevails in Europe today.

Thank you.