250 Migration & Asylum Researchers Oppose the New EU Pact on Migration

by Louise Hantson

Brussels Interdisciplinary Research centre on Migration and Minorities (BIRMM), Vrije Universiteit Brussel

A group of researchers at Brussels Interdisciplinary Research centre on Migration and Minorities (BIRMM, Vrije Universiteit Brussel) launched an open letter against the introduction of mandatory border procedures following a political agreement on the new EU Pact on Migration and Asylum in December 2023. Within a few weeks, over 250 migration experts from almost 100 universities signed this letter. Experts in the field of EU migration and asylum policies deemed the introduction of mandatory asylum border procedures foreseen by the new EU as “dangerous, inhumane, unfeasible, and ineffective” and oppose the final ratification of the Pact. 

Mid-February the Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE) Committee of the European Parliament voted in favour of the new Pact on Migration and Asylum, aiming to profoundly reform the EU approach to asylum. After this vote only the ratification of the European Parliament and the Council, which is expected in April, remains for this text to be formally adopted.

The new Pact’s adoption would bring about two main innovations. Firstly, the pact introduces mandatory border procedures. In practice, asylum seekers coming from countries with a low recognition rate would have their applications processed very quickly at the borders, in detention facilities, or in small islands. Secondly, the pact introduces the establishment of a flexible “solidarity” system among EU member states. This system would give the possibility to non-border EU member states to contribute to the efforts of border countries by choosing between resettlement, financial and operational support, or by funding relevant projects in third countries. 

Inefficient Border Procedures and Human rights Violations 

A reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS) has been a top priority on the EU’s agenda since the arrival of migrants and refugees peaked in 2015, and EU countries struggled to re-organise and manage their reception. Within a context where extreme right parties are winning terrain in EU countries, advocating for a fortress Europe, the EU’s agenda on asylum and migration has shifted towards the externalisation of asylum-related responsibilities and border protection.

Nevertheless, the open letter against the introduction of mandatory border procedures, signed by over 250 academics, call on the EU to take science-grounded policy advice on asylum and migration policies seriously. Research, which is often funded by the EU itself, has repeatedly shown that the border procedures as proposed in the new EU migration pact are unfeasible and difficult to implement, are overtly inhumane, and do not achieve the goals that they have set out to reach1

Firstly, previous experiments with the fast-track border procedures have shown that decisions on asylum applications cannot be processed in a few weeks in transit zones, as the pact proposes. In reality, these procedures usually take several months, as previous experiences with fast-track border procedures, such as the ones on the Aergean Islands in the context of the EU-Türkiye statement, have demonstrated. 

Furthermore, research on border procedures have shown that the detention and deprivation of the liberty of asylum seekers, that these proposed border procedures imply, lead to fundamental rights violations. Asylum seekers, including families and children, who have their applications assessed in border procedures would be kept in covert detention. During these assessment periods, they would moreover systematically lack access to legal assistance and remedies, as well as to proper health and psychological care. 

Lastly, the widely maintained conception that border regimes would discourage migrants from attempting to enter the EU is erroneous. In the last 30 years, EU countries have been adopting increasingly restrictive asylum measures, including border procedures, but no deterring effects has been observed.  

The new EU’s Pact on Migration also establishes a “flexible solidarity mechanism”, enabling member states to fund so called relevant projects in third countries. This solidarity mechanism thereby intersects with the EU’s externalisation of migration management and protection duties but does not guarantee effective solidarity amongst member states. It remains unclear, for example, how these flexible “solidarity” mechanisms would effectively protect European border states from the responsibility of being the EU’s gatekeepers, given the lack of clear accountability mechanisms to hold member states liable in case they fail their duties. 

Trimming the Resources for Integration and the Asylum System

In the Multiannual Financial Framework for the period of 2021-2027 of the EU, we witnessed an exponential increase in resources for repatriation and border management at the expense of resources dedicated to strengthening the common asylum system, increasing legal migration routes, and standardising reception, as well as a diversion of resources intended for integration2

With the proposed New Pact on Migration, the policy priorities of the EU towards border protection and externalisation of protection duties of asylum seekers3 are once more confirmed and reinforced. Programmes and funding to overcome staggering ethnic gaps in the labour and housing markets, fighting discrimination and inclusion in educational and health service of refugees and migrants are expected to become further downscaled as a consequence.

The EU’s focus on unfeasible border management mirrored by the lack of investment in integration thereby harms the wellbeing of refugees and migrants outside and within the EU’s borders. Moreover, by leaving societies increasingly segmented and thus polarised, it harms the whole of our societies. 

A truly humane response to the issue of migration is the answer that the signatories of the open letter subscribed to. We are in dire need of forging policies that promote safe pathways for people in need, as well as of a continued and increasing investment for the integration and inclusion of migrants in European societies.

The open letter against the introduction of mandatory border procedures was shared with LIBE members the day prior to the vote on the 14th of February. The letter will be shared once more with EU parliamentarians before the vote in April to urge them to refrain from finally ratifying it.



  1. Relevant research: Policy Note: Border Procedures: Not a Panacea. ECRE’s Assessment of Proposals for increasing of mandatory use of border procedures. European Council on Refugees and Exiles, 2019. 
    Immigration, detention, and de facto detention. What does the law say?, 2022. PICUP (Platform for International Cooperation on Undocumented Migrants).
    Cornelissen, G.  & Reneman, M. 2022. Border Procedures in the European Union: How the Pact Ignored the Compacts. Laws, 11 (38). ↩︎
  2. Funding the border, ARCI, chapter 1. ↩︎
  3. The New Pact on Migration and Asylum. The Global Impact, Euromed Rights. ↩︎

Picture by Daria Nepriakhina 🇺🇦 su Unsplash

Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not those of Whole-COMM.

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