The EU's Hotspot Approach to Managing the Migration Crisis: A Blind Spot for International Responsibility?

The Italian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 25, 2015

20 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2016

See all articles by Federico Casolari

Federico Casolari

Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna

Date Written: 2015


Announced by the European Commission in its 2015 European Agenda on Migration as one of the EU’s priority tools to face the “unprecedented” migration crisis the Union was experiencing, the “hotspot” approach consists of a common platform for EU agencies (namely, the European Asylum Support Office, Frontex, Eurojust, and Europol) to intervene, rapidly and in an integrated manner, in frontline Member States when there is a crisis due to specific and disproportionate migratory pressure at their external borders. The goal was to reduce the pressure at the borders of the most affected Member States to “normal” levels while ensuring the proper reception, identification, and processing of arrivals. This also explains why it was envisioned that the hotspot approach would decisively contribute to facilitating the implementation of the emergency relocation mechanism, which has been established in parallel by the Council on the basis of Article 78(3) TFEU to allow the transfer of people in clear need of international protection from Italy, Greece, and other Member States directly affected by the refugee crisis to the territory of other EU countries. Like the relocation scheme, however, the hotspot approach suffered significant delays in its set-up. Most importantly, it attracted several criticisms from NGOs and international actors due to concerns about the protection of migrants’ fundamental rights. Against this background, the present contribution makes some introductory remarks on issues of international responsibility under international law emerging from the implementation – by State and EU actors – of the hotspot approach. In particular, the analysis will focus on problems related to the attribution of conduct, in light of the large number of subjects involved in the relevant activities. In this respect, this contribution will highlight first the function of hotspots. Then, the discussion will analyze the position of different actors involved in the hotspot approach in light of the international law framework on international responsibility. An assessment of what has been discussed in the preceding sections is contained in the final part.

Keywords: European Union, EU Agencies, Refugee Crisis, Hotspot Approach, Relocation Mechanism, Shared Responsibility, Draft Articles on Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts, Draft Articles on the Responsibility of International Organizations

Suggested Citation

Casolari, Federico, The EU's Hotspot Approach to Managing the Migration Crisis: A Blind Spot for International Responsibility? (2015). The Italian Yearbook of International Law, Vol. 25, 2015. Available at SSRN:

Federico Casolari (Contact Author)

Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna ( email )

Department of Legal Studies
via Zamboni, 27/29
Bologna, Bologna 40126
+39 051 20 9 9683 (Phone)


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