Swiss view partnerships as a way to curb illegal migration

In Switzerland, many problems with illegal migration and asylum seekers from third-world countries are being solved with mobility and migration partnerships. But these partnerships have to have a long-term perspective, the Swiss say.


Eduard Gnesa, Special Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation for International Cooperation in Migration, said that in the past, Switzerland faced migrant problems with young people from Tunisia coming to Switzerland, that didn't have jobs.


The Tunisians applied for asylum, but they were not asylum seekers, under Swiss law or the Geneva Convention of 1951. Gnesa explained that he then went to Tunisia and asked what the countries' interests were in a migration partnership and the Tunisians had interests in development and economy.


"It was quite a good entry for us to discuss with Tunisia because just after the Arab spring, our Federal Council decided to cooperate with Tunisia, Egypt and other states on the issues of democracy, economy and migration and protection," the Swiss Ambassador said at a panel discussion held by the Swiss Mission in Brussels.


The ambassador stressed that the migration partnerships first of all are a memorandum of understanding. They cover issues from the training of young professionals to combatting trafficking.


A return program is also part of the partnership, whereby the returning migrant is given a total amount of 5,000 Swiss Francs. "They return of course freely and we give them some money and some projects in the field and it works quite well," Gnesa said.


He added that Switzerland also has migration partnerships with Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo and Nigeria.


"What’s important on migration partnerships is that they have to be on a long-term perspective. And you need to have two-three expert meetings because it’s like in a private partnership, if you don’t live it, it won’t last for a long time," the ambassador said.


Rules to be followed


EU's 'Global approach to migration and mobility (GAMM)' was reviewed in 2011 and confirmed by the Council in May 2012.


As a centre piece of the GAMM, mobility partnerships are described as the "prime bilateral framework to address relevant migration and mobility issues of mutual concern, primarily with EU neighbourhood countries".


Following the pilot mobility partnerships of 2008 with Moldova and Cape Verde, two more have been signed with Armenia and Georgia. Negotiations are also about to start with Azerbaijan.


The EU's GAMM also suggests a 'lighter' version of partnerships with countries outside the EU neighbourhood. The partnerships are presently being considered with regard to countries of political importance for the EU.


MEP Manfred Weber, who's Vice-Chair of the Group of the European People’s Party, said the Swiss partnerships were not how he thought a partnership should be.


"I understand that we need partnerships, but first of all we have rules and everybody has to accept the rules. Sometimes we talk about migration as if we must create a system for legal migration. But sorry, we have rules for legal migration all over Europe," Weber said.


"We have rules on how we should protect our borders against illegal migration. We have created them on a European level. Perhaps the first steps should be to take these rules into daily practice," he added.


Changing patterns mean changing approach


Stefano Manservisi, Director-General of DG Home Affairs at the European Commission, said that it is "increasingly visible" that there is a radical change of patterns in the migration profile in the world.


"The motivation of people has also changed and new factors are pushing people away from their homeland. For example, climate changes is changing migration patterns. Not only wars, but also factors linked to climate change,” Manservisi said, arguing for an EU change of strategy.


With 20 million of third country nationals living illegally in the EU and more to come due to demographics and labour market structural changes, there needs to be a change of paradigm, according to Manservisi.


"If we want to be as we claim a political power then we have to enforce a political offer or scheme to be part of this process, redefining mobility at a global level," the EU official added.


Cesla Amarelle, member of the Swiss Parliament (National Councillor) and Assistant Professor in Migration Law at the University of Neuchâtel, stressed the differences between the Swiss and EU  migration partnerships.


"The negotiation process is comparable, but I think there is a lot of differences between Plan Africa in Spain and the agreements and Switzerland. It's evident," Amarelle said.


"The negotiation processes, however, have a lack of transparency. Parliaments are not very informed on the negotiation process and the problems about human rights. It’s obvious for me that we don’t check about human rights when we conclude an agreement. That’s a problem," Amarelle stated.




Cooperation in the area of migration with countries of origin and transit has been on the political agenda for a number of years at the highest level.


Migration remains a very sensitive topic for politicians both in Europe and partner countries especially in times of volatile economies.


In a globalised world and one of increasingly diversified migration flows, Europe is still a destination region for migrants arriving in a regular or


irregular way or persons seeking international protection.


Since 2005, the conviction to address migration issues in a more comprehensive and balanced way, taking into account all related aspects, has found its way into policy thinking at EU level and the level of EU MS.


Several states have concluded bilateral ' migration agreements' with partner countries in order to broaden the bilateral discussions from security-focused issues to all aspects of importance for the two sides.


The EU has followed the path of a comprehensive and balanced approach since late 2005 when the 'Global approach to migration' came into being. Pilot mobility partnerships were signed in 2008 with Moldova and Cape Verde.


The partnership is formalised through a political declaration with a detailed annex of activities to be implemented in the partner country.