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EU Leaders in Malta: Addressing Migration Ahead of the G7 Taormina Summit

Sophie Barnett, G7 Research Group
February 1, 2017

On Friday, February 3, 2017, European Union leaders will gather in Malta to address the current crisis of migration from across the Mediterranean. This is a critical issue for both the EU and for the Italian-hosted G7 summit coming up in Taormina, Sicily, on May 25-26. The key question is how well have the EU and its members have used the G7 to control their migration challenge, through their hosting of past G7 summits and by complying with the migration commitments all G7 summits have made?

The G7 has long dealt with migration and refugee crises. At present, most G7 members are particularly affected by the current migrant crisis. The EU, Germany and Italy — ┬áthree of the most recent G7 hosts — have been affected most pointedly, and continue to play a key role in the world's response to it. It is therefore no surprise that the G7 will continue to try to be a satisfactory mechanism for responding to the global refugee crisis, as it is in the common interest of G7 leaders to work together. Their dedication to migration-related commitments has been reflected in their high scores in complying with the commitments they make at their annual summits, as assessed by the G7 Research Group.

At the 2014 Brussels Summit, G7 leaders recognized for the first time the severity of the Syrian refugee crisis. They fully complied with the commitment they made there to support Syria's neighbours bearing the burden of refugee inflows (see Appendix A). At the 2015 Schloss Elmau Summit, G7 leaders made seven commitments to address the migrant crisis, including six that addressed trafficking (see Appendix B). All G7 members fully complied with the seventh commitment: a bold pledge to tackle the causes of refugee crises around the world.

At Japan's 2016 Ise-Shima Summit, G7 leaders placed greater priority on the migrant crisis and made an impressive 10 commitments on migration, including increasing global assistance, creating education and employment opportunities, working toward a stabilized Syria and supporting African countries to prevent and resolve conflicts and beyond. Equally striking, the Ise-Shima commitments on migration also covered a wide range of issues: development, human rights, peace and security, and gender equality. Leaders also pledged to offer support to the Libyan Government of National Accord to help restore peace, security and prosperity, and to address humanitarian suffering — a topic that will receive much attention at the EU meeting in Malta.

The EU summit in Malta is an excellent opportunity to continue addressing the migrant crisis ahead of the Taormina Summit. At Malta the leaders are expected to address external dimensions of migration with a particular focus on the Central Mediterranean route and Libya — key issues that are also on the agenda of the G7. In the first 25 days of January alone, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) reports that 246 migrants and refugees died trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe. Furthermore, of the 181,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean in 2016, 90% came from the Libyan coast, allowing traffickers to capitalize on the situation. Over the past three years, 500,000 people have arrived in Italy by boat, and a further 300,000 in Libya are waiting to attempt the dangerous crossing. However, the EU currently has no agreed plans to redistribute those people around Europe or send them back to Libya.

The Malta meeting is an attempt to confront this emergency, as the Financial Times reports. There has been discussion of a refugee deal similar to the one struck with Turkey, but the collapse of the Libyan state in 2011 and the irregular patterns of migration from Africa make the chances of such a deal unlikely. Instead, EU leaders are expected to agree on measures to stem migrant flows, tackle migrant smuggling and save lives. They will discuss increased cooperation with Libyan authorities to train, equip and support the Libyan national coast guard, increase efforts to disrupt smuggling businesses, and improve the socioeconomic situation of local communities. They will also likely call for increased cooperation with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and IOM to ensure adequate reception capacities and conditions in Libya for migrants, enhance information campaigns and step up voluntary return activities.

With a Japan long closed to immigrants, a closing America, an open Canada and a weary Europe, 2017 is an important year to ensure effective progress in supporting refugees and migrants and finding durable solutions to the ongoing crises in Libya, Syria and beyond. At Ise-Shima, G7 leaders agreed that the 2017 Taormina Summit would address the migrant crisis. With the leaders gathering in one of the primary destinations for migrants, the Taormina Summit will clearly be an important moment for G7 leaders to build on the successes of Ise-Shima and make new commitments to tackle the root causes of the migrant crisis. The EU meeting in Malta is a great starting point for ensuring that 2017 is a successful year for refugees and migrants, for their countries of origin, for Europe and for the G7.

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Appendix A: G7 Compliance with Migration Commitments, 2014 and 2015


United States Japan Germany United Kingdom France Italy Canada European Union Total
2014-114: "We are committed to supporting the neighbouring countries bearing the burden of Syrian refugee inflows" +1 0 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +0.88
2015-105: "[Based on our common values and principles we are committed to:] Tackling the Causes of the Refugee Crises" +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1 +1.00
2015-127: "[We reaffirm our commitment to] combat the trafficking of migrants" +1 0 +1 +1 +1 0 +1 +1 +0.75

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Appendix B: G7 Commitments on Migration, 2014-2016

2014-114: "We are committed to supporting the neighbouring countries bearing the burden of Syrian refugee inflows" (regional security)

2015-104: "[Based on our common values and principles we are committed to:] Fighting Trafficking of Migrants" (human rights)

2015-105: "[Based on our common values and principles we are committed to:] Tackling Causes for Refugee Crises" (development)

2015-126: "We reaffirm our commitment to prevent [the trafficking of migrants]" (human rights)

2015-127: "[We reaffirm our commitment to] combat the trafficking of migrants]" (human rights)

2015-128: "[We reaffirm our commitment] to detect [human trafficking in and beyond our borders.]" (human rights)

2015-129: "[We reaffirm our commitment to] deter [human trafficking in and beyond our borders.]" (human rights)

2015-130: "[We reaffirm our commitment to] disrupt human trafficking in and beyond our borders." (human rights)

2016-9: "We commit to increase global assistance to meet immediate and long-term needs of refugees and other displaced persons as well as their host communities." (development)

2016-114: "We commit to increase global assistance to meet immediate and longer-term needs of refugees and other displaced persons as well as their host communities, via humanitarian, financial, and development assistance, cooperation, as well as other measures to support trade and investment consistent with our international obligations, recognizing the necessity of closer collaboration between humanitarian, development and other actors." (development)

2016-117: "We commit to assist the front-line states in creating education and employment opportunities for refugees in order to empower them as future assets contributing to the stability and prosperity of host communities and the reconstruction of home countries after their return." (development)

2016-118: "The G7 supports the strengthening of the international protection approaches through promoting the core principles of the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and its Protocol, and by providing safe haven for those fleeing persecution. It is also clear, however, that protection frameworks should not be used to bypass legitimate immigration assessment." (human rights)

2016-119: "We are determined to continue to fight migrant smuggling and modern slavery, and protect victims of trafficking together with countries of origin, transit and destination." (human rights)

2016-120: "Further, we support UN-led efforts to strengthen the long-term capacity and effectiveness of the international system to respond to humanitarian crises, which includes: (i) increasing resources for humanitarian assistance, (ii) reducing reliance on humanitarian aid by investing in resilience and disaster risk reduction, and by seeking durable solutions to displacement; (iii) broadening the resource base; as well as (iv) enhancing access, efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian aid delivery systems." (development)

2016-125: "We are committed to supporting displaced persons and their host communities and to working towards a long-term, sustainable post-conflict stabilization and rehabilitation of Syria and to eradicating conditions conducive to violent extremism." (development)

2016-134: "We stand ready to offer support to the GNA [Government of National Accord] to help restore peace, security and prosperity, and address the dire humanitarian suffering." (peace and security)

2016-144: "We thus continue to support African and regional organizations' efforts to address these issues, including to prevent and resolve conflicts, strengthen democratic institutions, fight against trafficking in persons, manage irregular migration, combat the illicit transfer of conventional arms, create jobs for the youth, expose and tackle corruption, and promote sustainable development and resilience, emphasizing the importance of African ownership of these efforts." (peace and security)

2016-280: "We are committed to support refugee and internally displaced women and girls as well as for those affected by conflicts and disasters, by providing assistance to empower them and develop their resilience, and to prevent and respond to sexual and gender-based violence." (gender)

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Sophie BarnettSophie Barnett is a third-year student pursuing an Honours BA in international relations at the University of Toronto. She is a compliance director at the G20 Research Group and a research assistant for Professor John Kirton. Her research focuses on G7 and G20 migration issues, in addition to her other research interests in international law and cybersecurity. Sophie's work has been featured by a variety of sources, including E-International Relations, the NATO Association of Canada and the University of Southern California International Review. Upon graduation, she intends to pursue further studies in global governance and diplomacy. Follow her at @sophie_barnett.

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