What the EU political manifestos say about migration

Elections to the European Parliament. EU elections.
© Daniel Jędzura

This blog provides a short overview of the main EU political parties’ stance on migration, based on their manifestos for the 2024 EU elections.

Identity and Democracy (ID)

Identity and Democracy (far right) is a far-right political party that has consistently supported repressive policies against migrants. While no public manifesto was made available on their website, their online petition to “Stop illegal immigration!” is a telling illustration of the criminalising, threatening and stigmatising narrative of migration ID embraces.

European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR)

The European Conservatives and Reformists (right and far-right) follows a securitisation approach that conceives migration as a threat. In fact, the section of its manifesto that deals with migration is eloquently titled “Safeguarding Citizens and Borders”. In it, the ECR pledges more support for member states to “protect the EU’s external border”, including through a strengthened role for Frontex, something which has consistently chimed with human rights violations at borders.

The ECR also vows to increase deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers, completely disregarding alternative residence permits available under national legislation, and to further cooperation agreements with third countries to prevent people from reaching Europe.

European People’s Party (EPP)

The European People’s Party (centre-right) follows a securitisation approach similar to that of the ECR: in its manifesto, key migration measures are outlined in a section called “Our Europe protects its borders against illegal migration”. Of all manifestos considered in this blog, the EPP’s includes the most references to “illegal migration” and “illegal migrants”, a terminology that perpetuates stigma against undocumented people and opens the door to harmful policies. In the same vein, the party invites “legal migrants who live with us to become part of our community by integrating themselves”, a paternalistic and repressive narrative that subordinates access to rights to cultural assimilation and the good will of the white majority.

Among key measures, the EPP vows to triple Frontex staff (bringing it to 30,000 officers) and grant it stronger powers and a higher budget. These measures stand in stark contrast with numerous accusations of the agency’s complicity in human rights violations at the borders, and lack of transparency and accountability, brought by civil society, institutions, and victims themselves.

The EPP supports deals with third countries that would see the EU sending asylum-seekers to a “safe” third country for the processing of their asylum claim, and for hosting those who would be granted asylum. This type of agreement recalls the UK-Rwanda deal, much criticised by international and national institutions and civil society for violating international law and exposing people to abuse and human rights violations.

The EPP also vows to use trade agreements, development aid and visa policies as a lever to force third countries into facilitating deportations to their territories. Labour migration deals are left to the member states.

The conflation of migration and security is further evidenced in their pledge to strengthen the information exchange between counter terrorism authorities and migration authorities.

Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)

The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (centre-right and centre) largely frames migration from an asylum perspective. Key measures in the migration field are all listed under a section called “An asylum policy that works”.

On the one hand, ALDE vows to launch a European Action Plan for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean and ensure pushbacks, mistreatment of migrants and other rights violations are not left “without consequences”, although no further detail is given on what those consequences would look like.

On the other hand, ALDE supports agreements with third countries to “halt irregular migration to the EU” and tackle push and pull factors through partnership programmes centred around job creation, climate change mitigation and information campaigns on the “realities of migration”. The party further vows to reform Frontex to better control the EU’s borders, swiftly mentioning “respect for human rights”.

Support for asylum is also not unconditional, as ALDE vows to establish EU-managed facilities outside the EU borders for processing asylum claims.

Party of the European Socialists (PES)

The manifesto of the Party of the European Socialists (centre-left) addresses migration in a section called “Managing asylum and migration” that tries to balance respect for human rights and border control.

On the one hand, the PES vows to establish a common system to manage migration and asylum based on “solidarity and shared responsibility” and calls for the EU Migration Pact to be implemented through an approach “grounded in the respect of human rights and people’s dignity”. Together with numerous other human rights organisations, PICUM has been denouncing how this Pact legalises and entrenches ample rights violations, with little space for human rights or people’s dignity.

The PES also calls for fair migration procedures, including the right to legal assistance, “safe and legal pathways”, respect of the right to asylum and protection, and “humane and decent reception conditions”. The party stands against “any form of EU border externalisation” and further vows never to criminalise humanitarian assistance and to support a European mission for search and rescue in the Mediterranean. The manifesto finally includes a swift reference to “inclusive labour market policies” and “stronger inclusion policies”.

At the same time, the PES calls for return decisions to be carried out “effectively”, which in EU policy lingo often means “swift deportations”, and for strengthened EU external borders.

European Green Party (the Greens)

The manifesto of the European Green Party (centre-left) approaches migration through a rights-based lens: the relevant section is called “A Union of rights and freedoms: protecting the rights of all”.

The Greens vow to end the criminalisation of migrants and the criminalisation of humanitarian assistance. They support an EU-funded search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean and vow to strengthen the “humanitarian mandate” of Frontex, while improving parliamentary oversight over its operations.

They oppose deals with third countries that aim to prevent people from trying to reach Europe and support human rights assessments for “any cooperation with third countries”.

As one of the few political forces opposing the EU Migration Pact, the Greens call for a new “Migration Code” that provides for visas linked to family reunification and work at different skills levels. They call for access to justice for all migrant workers and the recognition of the universality of labour rights to fight against their exploitation, as well as decent and affordable accommodation for all mobile EU citizens and migrant workers. They pledge to protect victims of human trafficking and labour exploitation through “protection programmes and residency rights”.

The manifesto further calls for universal health coverage and the elimination of health inequities, as well as universal access to early childhood education and care for all children, “no matter their passport”.

Finally, the Greens’ is the only manifesto to show explicit support for a regional campaign to regularise the status of undocumented people who have been living in the EU for years (“long-term sans papiers”), a key measure to improve their living conditions and that benefits society as a whole.

European Free Alliance (EFA)

The European Free Alliance, a federation of regionalist and autonomist parties, has only one direct reference to migration in their manifesto. In it, they call for a common European response to migration, based on “humanitarian principles and international law”, and on “safe and legal pathways”. The EFA has been part of the same parliamentary group as the Greens since 1999.

European Left (the Left)

The European Left (left) addresses migration through a social inequality and decolonisation approach: the relevant section is called “Co-development, not colonial domination and hegemony”.

The Left supports “legal and safe migration routes” and  “equal terms and working conditions” for migrant workers. They call for a “truly European migration and asylum policy”, based on co-responsibility and mandatory solidarity between all member states, and characterised by “safe, legal passages” to counter trafficking in human beings and end deaths in the Mediterranean. The Left opposes pushbacks and vows to repeal all migration agreements that violate fundamental rights, including agreements on the externalisation of European borders.

The Left calls for an “EU directive against social inequalities and discrimination in education” based on various grounds, including residence status. They support universal and free access to care and public health systems.

Finally, the Left calls for the “dissolution” of Frontex.