Lazy eyes listen
Countries that refuse to accept their citizens back after being turned down by the EU will face visa restrictions, the EU’s interior ministers warned this week. They urged the European Commission to act as illegal immigration to the EU reached a new high in 2016.
Support for limiting the number of visas granted to “non-cooperative” countries is “strong” among EU member states, according to Swedish Minister for Migration Maria Malmer Stenergard following a meeting of interior ministers on Thursday.
“We are seeing an increase in irregular arrivals… “Returning those denied asylum to Europe is a critical issue,” Stenergard said. “The current level [of returned migrants] is unacceptably high.”
According to Eurostat data cited in the meeting, only 21% of the 340,000 illegal immigrants denied asylum in 2021 were returned to their home countries.
“If the political and diplomatic efforts [to improve cooperation with third countries] do not yield the desired results, the Member States request that the Commission submit proposals on visa restrictions,” the Swedish minister continued.
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, agreed that there is a need to “intensify” the return of illegal migrants, calling for a “pilot project” that would return failed asylum seekers from the EU’s external borders with “immediate returns.”
Von der Leyen suggested that the EU agree on a list of “safe” countries where returns are unlikely to put migrants at risk, as well as agreements with countries such as Bangladesh, Egypt, Pakistan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Nigeria in order to “prevent departures” in the first place and “improve returns” where necessary.
While the EU previously agreed to restrict visas for countries deemed uncooperative in accepting returned nationals, the only country so far punished has been Gambia, whose citizens can no longer obtain multiple-entry visas to the EU and must wait longer for those documents. According to Reuters, the European Commission has proposed similar sanctions for Iraq, Senegal, and Bangladesh, but disagreements among member countries have so far prevented agreement on whether or how to punish anyone else.
According to Frontex, EU countries recorded over 330,000 illegal entry attempts last year, the most since 2016, and a figure that does not include legal asylum seekers or Ukrainian refugees. Over 80% of these were adult men.