EU wants to send more migrants away as irregular arrivals grow

  • EU Border Agency says 2022 irregular arrivals highest since 2016
  • Ministers discussed increasing returns to states including Iraq
  • Radical immigration ideas come to the fore
  • The EU’s top migration official says there is no money for ‘walls and fences’

STOCKHOLM, Jan 26 (Reuters) – European Union ministers on Thursday called for ways to curb irregular immigration and deport more people as arrivals rise from pandemic lows, controversial ideas for border fences and asylum centers outside Europe. has been revived.

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

“We have a huge increase in irregular arrivals of migrants,” Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told talks between the EU’s 27 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 who called for more pressure through visas and development aid to about 20 countries, including Iraq and Senegal – which the EU considers failing to cooperate in taking back their citizens. There is no right to live in .

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According to the bloc’s executive, only a fifth of such people are repatriated, with insufficient resources and coordination on the EU side being another obstacle.

The ministerial talks come ahead of a February 9-10 summit of EU leaders who will also seek further withdrawal, according to their draft joint decision seen by Reuters.

“The overall economic turmoil turns countries like Tunisia from a transit country to a country where locals also want to go,” an EU official said. “It changes things. But it’s still very manageable, especially if the EU works together.”

‘walls and fences’

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

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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 fueled anti-immigration sentiment.

The European Union has since tightened its external borders and asylum laws. As people move forward again after the Covid pandemic, the debate is returning, as are some proposals that were previously dismissed as untenable.

Denmark has held talks with Rwanda to handle asylum seekers in East Africa, while others have sought EU funds for a border fence between Bulgaria and Turkey – both ideas so far considered taboo.

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

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Dutch minister Eric van der Berg 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 Thursday, saying it was systematically pushing people to the bloc’s external borders. , which is a violation of their right. To claim asylum.

While EU countries oppose irregular immigration, which often includes Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa, Germany is simultaneously trying to open its job market to much-needed workers from outside the bloc.

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

Additional reporting by Philip Blankinsop and Bart Meijer, Writing by Gabriela Baczynska Editing by Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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