EU signs 'blue card' scheme for skilled migrants
25/05/2009 - 17:47:58
Europe’s governments this afternoon approved an EU “Blue Card” scheme to attract highly-qualified migrant workers.
The new rules are designed to reverse a situation in which 85% of unskilled migrant labour currently goes to the EU countries, and only 5% to the USA - while 55% of skilled migrant labour goes to the USA and only 5% to the EU.
The “Blue Card” scheme sets out attractive conditions for EU entry and residence by non-EU nationals with high qualifications.
The rules agreed today will also bring in sanctions against EU employers of migrant workers who are in the Union illegally.
EU Justice Commissioner Jacques Barrot said: “I am very glad that today we have been able to put in place two important pieces of our common immigration policy.
He went on: “Highly skilled migration into Europe increases our competitiveness and economic growth, and helps tackle the demographic problems resulting from our ageing population.
“With today’s adoption of the EU Blue Card we send a clear signal that, irrespective of economic ups and downs, such migrants are always welcome in the EU.”
The Commissioner said the new sanctions against EU employers taking on illegal immigrants would make it harder for such migrants to find jobs: “The ease of finding illegal work in EU member states is a main driving force for illegal immigration” he said.
“Such migrants run a high risk of ending up in the harsh reality of exploitation and even sometimes slavery-like conditions. Illegal employment also distorts competition and the functioning of the internal market.”
According to available figures, only 1.7% of the working population in the EU is made up of highly-skilled workers from outsider the Union – a much smaller proportion than on Australia (9.9%), Canada (7.3%), America (3.2%) and Switzerland (5.3%) and America (3.2%).
A Commission statement said the new card scheme should “attract and retain on a needs-based approach more highly qualified workers from third countries.”
Under the scheme third-country nationals will be able to apply for the card from within or outside the EU.
Successful applicants will get a special residence and work permit, called the “EU Blue Card”, entitling them to “socio-economic rights” and more favourable family reunification rules than generally available to migrant workers.
Under the new sanctions rules, EU employers will have to carry out tougher pre-recruitment checks on third-country nationals under national authority monitoring. Failure to do so will mean fines, possible loss of national or EU business subsidies, or even temporary disqualification from public contracts.
“Firms that use subcontractors can be held liable if their direct subcontractor infringes the Directive” said the Commission statement, “This chain liability is further extended to the full chain of subcontractors if the firm knew about the illegal employment.”
The rules will also oblige governments signed up to the scheme to impose criminal sanctions in serious cases, such as repeated infringements, the simultaneous employment of a “significant number” of illegal workers, or “knowingly using work or services exacted by a person who is a victim of human trafficking and illegally employing a minor.”