Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Contemporary Migration Issues Across the Mediterranean (History, Policy and International Law)

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT European Studies

DESCRIPTION Migration in the Mediterranean continues to make headlines and top the political agenda of the EU and its Member States. Reports of loss of life of migrants at sea and rescue boats refused entry into ports are commonplace and reflect the tragic reality of irregular migration mostly facilitated by unscrupulous smugglers and misguided NGOs.

Migration and asylum are policy areas with one of the highest levels of public support for EU level involvement. The EU has become a major destination for migrants due to the interplay between several push and pull factors. Push factors include political and social instability in the EU neighborhood, economic challenges and demographic trends in countries of origin while pull factors include increased economic renewal and opportunities in the EU coupled with a stronger EU framework for those who seek protection. Migrants often have to resort to irregular means of entry facilitated by smugglers, putting their lives at high risk to escape war, persecution, poverty, or to reunite with their families, find work, or seek better education opportunities.

Although irregular arrivals have now been brought down to pre-2015/16 crisis levels, structural migration pressure remains strong. In his September 2018 State of the Union address, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called for a system that can withstand future crises, with measures to disrupt smugglers' business models, to secure the EU’s external borders, to make asylum and return work well, to enhance legal pathways and to address the underlying reasons for migration.

Mindful of the internal and external policy dimensions of migration and asylum, for the past years, the EU has embarked on the difficult process to create a legal and policy framework to better manage migration flows and potential crises. This includes the reform of the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), the strengthening of the EU external border, a focus on enhanced cooperation with third countries on migration and asylum, including for return and readmission purposes, and increased legal entry channel to the EU through resettlement, mobility arrangements and private sponsorship.

Study-unit Aims:

The aim of this study-unit is to provide an historical overview of the political, institutional and legal architecture of migration and asylum in the EU and an analysis of how the EU policy on migration and asylum is shaped and implemented with an emphasis on the Mediterranean region.

The study-unit will also examine the relevant EU and international legal frameworks and policies, together with the role played by the key institutional partners post Lisbon Treaty in their design and implementation. Analyses of relevant EU migration and asylum statistics and contextual elements will be performed. Specific focus will be placed on the aspects of CEAS, asylum, legal migration and irregular migration, integration and return, and EU external cooperation with third countries on migration.

The study unit will examine/look into the development of the CEAS and its external dimension, its ongoing reform and its impact on the wider EU migration policies. For increased interest and relevance, the study-unit will regularly focus on the Mediterranean region with a view to understanding migration routes, regional similarities, differences, solutions and policy approaches. The study-unit will seek to inform students of the challenges faced by the EU and by the EU Member States, in particular since the 2015 migration crisis, and to evaluate the policies and measures adopted so far.

Learning Outcomes:

Students should be able to understand how EU policy on migration and asylum is shaped and implemented in current times, the challenges and the limits of the existing legal and policy framework.

1. Knowledge & Understanding
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• understand the evolution of EU migration and asylum policy over recent years;
• discuss the International and EU legal framework on human rights and asylum;
• interpret statistical information and trends analyses;
• understand the development of the Common European Asylum System and the functioning of its various instruments;
• identify the EU and Member States migration policies;
• provide arguments for and against measures to stem irregular migration flows;
• appreciate contrasting or complementary perspectives from Member States, International Organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society, academia, etc.;
• identify the role of Member States, the EU institutions, and EU agencies in the development and implementation of EU policy on migration and asylum;
• understand the need to mainstream migration and asylum in development issues;
• discuss the EU cooperation with third countries on migration.

2. Skills
By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:

• adopt a human rights based approach to migration issues;
• distinguish clearly the pros and cons of migration based on facts;
• analyse the root causes and effects of irregular migration;
• identify the different legal migration instruments;
• use the different migration and asylum-related terms correctly;
• identify the specific needs of vulnerable groups within mixed migratory flows.

Main Texts:

European Agency for Fundamental Rights (2014), Handbook on European law relating to asylum, borders and immigration

European Migration Network (2018), Asylum and Migration Glossary

International Organisation for Migration (2018), World Migration Report

EASO Annual Report on the Situation of Asylum in the EU 2017

Supplementary texts

European Parliament (2017), Special Eurobarometer of the European Parliament 2017

Eurostat asylum data 2017

Notre Europe, July 2017, European public opinion and the EU following the peak of the migration crisis

European Migration Network, May 2018 Annual report on migration and asylum EU 2017

Notre Europe, December 2017 Turning the tide on EU migration policy

European Political Strategy Centre, December 2017, 10 trends shaping migration

Centre for European Policy Studies, June 2018, Flexible solidarity: A comprehensive strategy for asylum and immigration in the EU

Overseas Development Institute, Chatham House, June 2017, Understanding public attitudes towards refugees and migrants


- International Organization for Migration (IOM):
- United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):
- International Labor Office (ILO):
- Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
- EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA):
- European Asylum Support Office (EASO):
- EU Border Management Agency (Frontex):
- Migration Policy Institute (MPI):
- Migration Policy Centre (MPC), European University Institute:
- The European Union history website:
- The Eurostat migration statistics website:
- DG Home online library:,
- Amnesty International, various reports for country case studies:

ADDITIONAL NOTES Class attendance is obligatory, as this is a seminar based course and assessment depends on class participation. Should a student miss more than two sessions, the lecturer may refuse to allow the student to sit for the exam.

STUDY-UNIT TYPE Lecture and Practical

Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Presentation SEM2 No 20%
Examination (2 Hours) SEM2 Yes 80%

LECTURER/S Marta Migliorati

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2021/2. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.