EU elections: What do parties want to do on migration and asylum?

The EU registered 1.14 million applications for international protection in 2023.
The EU registered 1.14 million applications for international protection in 2023. Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved
By Jorge Liboreiro
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

As the elections to the European Parliament draw closer, Euronews breaks down what parties want to do with what is arguably the most divisive topic of the political agenda: migration and asylum.


Electoral hopefuls will be able to campaign on the New Pact on Migration and Asylum, an all-encompassing reform that would introduce predictable, collective rules to manage the reception and relocation of asylum seekers, endorsed in March by the Parliament after years of deadlock between member states. 

Making the most out of the untested reform will be one of the top priorities for the bloc in the next mandate, particularly after the number of asylum applications reached 1.14 million in 2023, a seven-year high.

But parties vying for seats in the hemicycle have more ideas on the hot-button issue, from an all-out naval blockade to greater protection for LGBTQ+ refugees.

Here's what each manifesto pledges to do on migration and asylum.

EPP: more Frontex, more deals

"The guiding principles of our migration policy are humanity and order. We seek a halt to uncontrolled migration," the centre-right European People's Party (EPP), the largest formation in the Parliament that is projected to stay as such, says in its manifesto. 

The party is hellbent on strengthening external borders and wants "rigorous" screening of all irregular arrivals and "comprehensive" electronic monitoring at all entry points. If the external borders are not secure enough, the EPP does not "exclude" the introduction of controls at internal borders, which some countries already have.

Additionally, the EPP envisions a beefed-up role and budget for Frontex, the bloc's border and coast guard agency, with 30,000 staff members — a three-fold jump compared to the 10,000 it is supposed to have by 2027.

But the most eye-catching proposal of the manifesto is the initiative to transfer asylum seekers to "safe" countries and, consequently, process their applications outside the bloc. "In the case of a positive outcome, the safe third country will grant protection to the applicant onsite," the manifesto says.

The undefined scheme has drawn comparisons to the controversial "Rwanda plan" that the United Kingdom has for years tried to establish to fly migrants to the African country, which was met with multiple legal challenges until its final approval.

Asked during the first debate of lead candidates whether such a proposal could respect human rights, the EPP's Ursula von der Leyen said any future arrangement would have to be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which London has repeatedly defied. 

Von der Leyen also defended the multi-million deals that her European Commission has signed with neighbouring countries, such as Tunisia, Mauritania and Egypt, to boost their national economies and decrease the departure of irregular arrivals. 

The EPP manifesto calls for the continuation of this strategy and for using trade, development and visa policies as leverage to compel countries of origin to take back the migrants who leave their territory. It also floats a "European investment plan for Africa to address more effectively the root causes of migration."

The number of asylum applications filed in the EU reached in 2013 a seven-year high, with more than 1.1 million.
The number of asylum applications filed in the EU reached in 2013 a seven-year high, with more than 1.1 million.Petros Karadjias/Copyright 2020 The AP. All rights reserved.

Socialists: a fair, humane approach

The Party of European Socialists (PES) keeps it fairly concise on migration and asylum: they want the New Pact to be implemented in a "fair, safe and predictable" manner, in full respect of human rights and "people's dignity."

For them, this means "humane and decent" reception conditions, legal assistance for applicants, special protection for children and the fight against traffickers.

Like the EPP, the PES pushes for strengthening the bloc's external borders and cooperation with countries of origin and transit but they set themselves apart by explicitly rejecting "any form of EU border externalisation."

"We will never criminalise humanitarian assistance, and we support a European mission for search and rescue in the Mediterranean," they add. (Since 2014, more than 28,000 people have been reported missing in the sea.)

The PES also intends to promote inclusive policies to help refugees integrate into Europe's labour market and support local authorities working on the ground.

Liberals: clarity and stability

The liberals' joint platform, known as Renew Europe Now, is based on a succinct compendium of 10 priorities.


On migration and asylum the group argues the topic has two enemies: populists who "fan the flames of racism" and the networks of smugglers who play with "the hopes and lives of people trying to escape misery or war."

Combatting both requires "clarity and stability" to increase legal guarantees for those who arrive in Europe and more opportunities for migrants in their home countries.

The liberals stress the need for "economic legal pathways" to fill vacancies. "As labour shortages are a reality, we need to integrate the talents we need," the group says.

Greens: no to dirty deals

"The right to asylum is not up for negotiation," the Greens state before outlining a raft of proposals on migration and asylum.

The group calls for a "mandatory relocation mechanism" to ensure all 27 member states shoulder the responsibility, the introduction of "climate visas" for victims of natural disasters outside the bloc, and special attention paid to LGBTQIA+ asylum seekers, who might suffer persecution despite coming from a country that, on paper, is "safe."


The Greens, like the PES, demand an EU-led search-and-rescue mission in the Mediterranean and add Frontex should strengthen its "humanitarian mandate" and accountability before parliaments. They also demand an end to pushbacks at the borders and the "criminalisation" of NGOs.

"People do not belong in prison simply for seeking asylum," they say.

In stark terms, the Greens oppose "dirty deals with dictators," referring to agreements with Tunisia and Egypt (which conservatives wholeheartedly support), and argue linking development aid and migration management is "unethical." 

"We cannot accept that refugees and migrants are exploited for geopolitical gain. Human trafficking must never be a weapon of hybrid warfare," they say.

Regarding jobs, the group proposes a new Migration Code to expand visa access, easier avenues for foreign students to become workers, and a "comprehensive campaign" to regularise the situation of undocumented migrants ("sans-papiers") living in the bloc.

Over the past year, the EU has struck deals with neighbouring countries, like Egypt, in a bid to decrease irregular migration.
Over the past year, the EU has struck deals with neighbouring countries, like Egypt, in a bid to decrease irregular migration.European Union, 2024.

ECR: all about outsourcing

Unsurprisingly the hard-right European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) party, which encompasses forces such as Fratelli d'Italia (Italy), Law and Justice (Poland), Vox (Spain) and New Flemish Alliance (Belgium), has the most radical proposals on migration and asylum.

The party says in its manifesto that member states must not force "their citizens to welcome illegal immigrants without their consent," a blunt statement that assails the system of "mandatory solidarity" featured in the New Pact. (The system offers three possible options to countries, one being relocation.)

The ECR proposes a strategy to control "all possible points of entry" via air, land and sea based on "enhanced" border infrastructure, a reinforced role of Frontex and Europol, and new measures to combat trafficking, increase repatriations and, crucially, "collaborate with third countries on the externalisation of migration management."

"Our objective is to ensure that the majority of applications for international protection are assessed directly outside of the EU," they say.

This echoes the norm-breaking protocol signed last year by Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, ECR's most prominent politician, to process up to 36,000 asylum claims per year in two brand-new centres that will be built in Albania.


Another of Meloni's ideas, an EU naval mission to "block illegal departures," rather than to save migrants in distress, also features in the manifesto. (Under international law, naval blockades are considered an act of war.)

"To prevent abuse of the asylum system, we will insist on granting asylum only to genuine refugees," the group says, without explaining what a "genuine refugee" is.

The Left: cancel the New Pact, dissolve Frontex

Rather than having a separate section devoted to migration and asylum, The Left tackles the topic in a broader chapter titled "Co-development, not colonial domination and hegemony".

The group calls for a "break with Fortress Europe," repudiates the outsourcing of migration policy based on the "funding of bloodthirsty regimes," and demands "obligatory solidarity" among all member states.

"If the EU wants to reduce the number of refugees and migrants then it needs to promote peace, stability and sustainable development in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia instead of participating in military interventions, fuelling civil wars and exploiting natural resources," the manifesto reads.


On a defiant note, The Left says the New Pact must be "cancelled" because, in their view, it condemns asylum seekers to detention and deportation. Equally noteworthy is their straight-out proposal for the "dissolution" of Frontex.

Identity and Democracy: missing in action

The far-right group, which comprises the likes of Alternative für Deutschland (Germany), Rassemblement National (France) and Lega (Italy), has not published a common manifesto ahead of the June elections – at least not yet.

In a declaration of principles adopted in 2022, the ID rejected "the way in which the European Union is further blurring Europe's borders into a management of migratory rights instead of geographical limits of the continent where its own European citizens are guarded and protected."

Share this articleComments

You might also like

EU countries not enforcing migration pact could face legal action, says Johansson

European Parliament narrowly endorses EU migration reform, moving it closer to the finish line

Half of Europeans disapprove of EU migration policy and demand stronger border controls, poll shows