- The EU Border Agency says 2022 is the highest number of irregular arrivals since 2016
- Ministers discuss speeding up returns to states including Iraq
- Hardline migration ideas return to the fore
- No money for ‘walls and fences’, says EU’s top migration official
STOCKHOLM, Jan 26 (Reuters) – European Union ministers on Thursday sought to curb irregular immigration and send more people away as arrivals from the pandemic surge, renewing controversial ideas for border fences and asylum centers outside Europe.
EU border agency Frontex recorded around 330,000 unauthorized arrivals last year, the highest since 2016, with a sharp increase along the Western Balkans route.
“We have a huge increase in irregular arrivals of migrants,” Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson told talks among the 27 EU migration ministers. “We have a very low turnover rate, and I can see that we can make significant progress here.”
Denmark, the Netherlands and Latvia have called for more pressure on visas and development aid for around 20 countries, including Iraq and Senegal. .
Only a fifth of such people are repatriated, the camp’s administrator says, adding that inadequate resources and coordination on the part of the EU are another obstacle.
The ministers’ talks come ahead of a summit of EU leaders on February 9-10, according to their draft joint decision seen by Reuters.
“The overall economic slowdown is turning countries like Tunisia from a transit country to a country where locals also want to go,” said an EU official. “It changes things. But it’s still manageable, especially if the EU works together.”
‘Walls and Fences’
However, immigration is a highly sensitive political issue and that is easier said than done in a camp where member states are bitterly divided over how to share the task of caring for those arriving in Europe.
The issue turned toxic in 2015 when more than a million people crossed the Mediterranean Sea in chaotic and deadly scenes.
The EU has tightened its external borders and asylum laws. As people move again following the Covid pandemic, the debate is returning to the fore, with some proposals previously dismissed as unacceptable.
Denmark held talks with Rwanda on handling asylum seekers in East Africa, while others called for EU funding to build a border fence between Bulgaria and Turkey — both ideas that have so far been seen as blocked.
“We are still trying to do it, preferably with other European countries, but, as a last resort, we will only do it in cooperation between Denmark and Rwanda for example,” Immigration Minister Kaare Dybvad said on Thursday.
Dutch minister Erik van der Burgh said he was open to EU funding for border barriers.
“EU member states are making it as difficult as possible to access international protection,” the Danish Refugee Council, an NGO, said in a statement on Thursday, calling the systematic pushing of people at the camp’s outer borders a violation of their rights. seek asylum
While EU countries protest against irregular immigration, which often includes Muslims from the Middle East and North Africa, Germany is simultaneously seeking to open its labor market to much-needed workers from outside the bloc.
“We want to conclude migration agreements with countries, especially North African countries, which will allow a legal route to Germany but also include operational income,” Interior Minister Nancy Feser said in Stockholm.
Additional reporting by Philip Blenkinsop and Bart Meijer, Writing by Gabriela Pacinska Editing by Bernadette Baum
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