May 20. 2024. 11:18

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Increase deportations, recognise migrant deals, EU tells capitals

The European Commission has urged countries across the European Union to increase the deportation of failed asylum seekers and mutually recognise migrant returns agreements in its latest step to improve control of the EU’s borders.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters in Strasbourg on Tuesday (14 March) that in 2022 only 21% of people not eligible for international protection in the EU were returned to their country of origin.

“When we fail to return people, this hampers our system and erodes trust,” she said

“To protect the right to apply for asylum, we have to show that we are appropriately dealing with those who do not qualify for international protection,” Johansson added. “We need migration, but it has to be in a legal and orderly way.”

Johansson added that mutual recognition of returns agreements across the bloc would make it “much easier to streamline returns.”

Very few member states use mutual recognition though the bloc’s existing rules already allow it.

The low levels of migrant returns have been a long-running problem for the EU and are largely the result of national immigration authorities being overstretched, poor communication between states, and the reluctance by third countries to accept failed asylum seekers.

Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas added that the EU needed to establish “common principles on how we manage our borders…to prevent people from playing one country off against another.”

Although EU officials concede that they do not know the scale of so-called ‘secondary movements’, where people make an asylum application in one country and then make an application in another country, they maintain that the numbers are increasing.

Both the EU and individual member states have faced criticism following a series of tragedies in the Mediterranean where migrant boats have sunk, while the rhetoric from EU leaders on migration control and repatriation has become increasingly tough.

However, Schinas said the aim was to have “a common European culture of migration management…combining efficiency and professionalism and to combine the responsibility of having safe borders with the fullest respect of fundamental rights.”

“Whether off the coast of Calabria or the coast of Libya…every life lost in the hands of the smugglers is a tragedy, and it is our responsibility together with our Member States to prevent that,” he added.

EU leaders have also set themselves a target of next year’s European elections to finalise the series of legislative files that form the Pact of Migration and Asylum, and Schinas doubled down on this commitment.

“When Europeans go to vote next May, they should do so with certainty that Europe has delivered this long-overdue agreement on the management of migration,” said Schinas.

Last week, EU home affairs ministers agreed to finalise their own negotiating mandate on most of the files at their next meeting, while the European Parliament is also expected to agree on its stance on most of the files in the coming weeks, paving the way for trilogue negotiations between the EU institutions before summer.

“We are on track to be able to develop the whole pact in this mandate,” said Johansson.