EU wants to expel more migrants as irregular arrivals rise

EU wants to expel more migrants as irregular arrivals rise
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  • EU border agency says 2022 irregular arrivals highest since 2016
  • Ministers discuss stepping up returns to states, including Iraq
  • Hardline migration ideas come back to the fore
  • Senior EU migration official says no money for ‘walls and fences’

STOCKHOLM, Jan 26 (Reuters) – European Union ministers on Thursday sought ways to curb irregular immigration and expel more people as arrivals rose from pandemic lows, reviving controversial ideas for border fences and immigration centers. asylum outside of Europe.

The EU border agency Frontex reported some 330,000 unauthorized arrivals last year, the highest number since 2016, with a sharp increase on the Western Balkans route.

“We have a big increase in irregular migrant arrivals,” Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said in talks among the 27 EU migration ministers. “We have a very low return rate and I can see that we can make significant progress here.”

Denmark, the Netherlands and Latvia were among those calling for more pressure through visas and development aid towards the 20 or so countries, including Iraq and Senegal, which the EU considers uncooperative to win back their citizens who are not entitled to to stay in Europe. . .

Only about a fifth of those people are sent back, and a lack of resources and coordination on the part of the EU are another obstacle, according to the bloc’s executive.

The ministerial talks are brought forward to February 1. 9-10 summit of EU leaders who will also seek more returns, according to their draft joint decision seen by Reuters.

“The general economic malaise is turning countries like Tunisia from being a transit country to a country where the locals also want to go,” an EU official said. “That changes things. But it’s still very manageable, especially if the EU acts together.”


However, this is easier said than done in the bloc, where immigration is a highly sensitive political issue and member countries are bitterly divided over how to share the burden of caring for those arriving in Europe.

The issue has turned toxic since more than a million people crossed the Mediterranean in 2015 in chaotic and deadly scenes that caught the bloc off guard and stoked anti-immigration sentiment.

Since then, the EU has tightened its external borders and its asylum laws. With people on the move again after the COVID pandemic, the debate is coming back to the fore, as are some proposals previously dismissed as out of the question.

Denmark It has held talks with Rwanda on the handling of asylum seekers in East Africa, while others have called for EU funding for a border fence between Bulgaria and Turkey, both ideas hitherto considered taboo.

“We are still working to make that happen, preferably with other European countries but, as a last resort, we will do it only in cooperation between Denmark and, for example, Rwanda,” Immigration Minister Kaare Dybvad said on Thursday.

Dutch minister Eric van der Burg said he was open to EU funding for border barriers.

“EU member states continue to make access to international protection as difficult as possible,” the Danish Refugee Council, an NGO, said in a report on Thursday about what it called systemic pushbacks of people at the bloc’s external borders. , a violation of their right to apply for asylum.

As EU countries protest irregular immigration, often made up of Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa, Germany it simultaneously seeks to open its labor market to much-needed workers from outside the bloc.

“We want to conclude migration agreements with countries, particularly with North African countries, that allow a legal route to Germany but also include functional returns,” Interior Minister Nancy Faeser said in Stockholm.

Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Bart Meiejer, writing by Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Bernadette Baum

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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