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Tuesday, 28 December 2010

No agreement on legislation on a single permit to live and work in the EU but extended long-term residence rights for refugees

European Union: adapted from original orthogra...Image via Wikipedia  
Source: European Parliament

The European Parliament cannot on draft "single permit" law to simplify procedures for legal immigrants to obtain residence and work permits in the EU and also give them the same protection against labour exploitation as EU citizens.

After a series of amendments to the legislation had been adopted, a majority of MEPs decided they could no longer vote for the end result, for various reasons.  The amended proposal was rejected (306 in favour, 350 against and 25 abstentions). The draft legislation will therefore be sent back to the Civil Liberties and the Employment committees,

The directive - which complements the so-called "blue card" for highly-skilled immigrants - is designed to facilitate legal immigration where it meets the needs of the European labour market. The aim is to simplify administrative requirements for third-country nationals by enabling them to obtain work and residence permits via a single procedure at a "one-stop shop" and to grant a common set of rights to immigrants legally residing and working in the EU.


The key points of discussion among political groups were the scope of the legislation, equal treatment of third country nationals and EU citizens and whether Member States should be enabled to issue or require other documents, in addition to the permit.

The draft legislation was not intended to apply to third-country nationals who have acquired long-term resident status, refugees, posted workers, intra-corporate transferees or seasonal workers.

A majority, led by rapporteur Veronique Mathieu (EPP, FR), the MEP steering the legislation through Parliament, took the view that long-term residents and refugees are already subject to EU rules and that posted workers, intra-corporate transferees or seasonal workers should be covered by other, specific EU directives.

On the other side of the argument, amendments that were tabled by the S&D group, but rejected in plenary, would have included intra-corporate transferees, seasonal workers and refugees in the scope of the law, on the grounds that to do otherwise would create a two-tier workforce.

The draft law would also have stipulated that third-country workers must enjoy equal treatment with nationals with regard to employment-related rights (such as access to social security, education and training) but according to the amended text, Member States would be entitled to restrict some of those rights.

One amendment tabled would have allowed Member States to introduce additional documents with regard to residence. When this was adopted, the ALDE group voted against the final result.

Rapporteur Mathieu expressed her disappointment after the vote that, after one year of negotiating, there would now be no legislation to give equal treatment to third-country nationals working in the EU.

Summary of the debate before the vote

Before the vote, rapporteur Mathieu said "this legislation will allow a better management of migration flows. It aims at erasing the differences between the Member States in terms of work and residence procedures and access to rights for third country nationals working legally in the EU."

Equality of treatment is the key for any economic immigration policy. This directive is not sufficient because it excludes people who need protection such as short term or seasonal workers", argued Employment Committee rapporteur Alejandro Cercas (S&D, ES). Vijila Blinkevičiūtė (S&D, LT), agreed that "we cannot set up a category of second rank workers in the EU".

Ria Oomen-Ruijten (EPP, NL), replied that those excluded from this directive "have their rights described in other EU directives".

For the Liberals, Sophie In't Veld (ALDE, NL), said that her group wanted to "arrive at a first reading agreement. How much progress have we made for a common immigration policy since the Tampere Council?", she asked. She also said that the ALDE would vote against any final result that enabled Member States to require additional documents.

Jean Lambert (Greens/ EFA, UK), said that her group "does not want to see the rights of third-country nationals constrained and restrained". Patrick Le Hyaric (GUE/NGL, FR), stated that "this law would create competition between EU workers and third-country nationals and between different categories of migrants. It would create different status and categories of workers".

"The good aspect is the simplification of procedures. However, we should first and help our citizens to get jobs", said Mara Bizotto (EFD, IT). "My group is against any EU common immigration policy. A single procedure makes it easier for the people to come into the EU", said Daniël Van der Stoep (NI, NL).

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Source: Migrant Rights Network

According to Statewatch the European Parliament (EP) and the Council have recently agreed on a Directive to extend long-term resident status to refugees and persons with subsidiary protection. This Directive is a modest but significant step towards fair treatment of persons needing international protection, and an indication that the Treaty of Lisbon has had a significant impact on the development of EU immigration and asylum law.
N.B.  Refugees and people with protected status in the UK will not benefit directly from this amendment to the Long-Term Resident Directive. The UK government has exercised its right to opt-out of this measure. 
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