The EU weighs punishing the countries of origin that refuse the return of irregular immigrants

The EU weighs punishing the countries of origin that refuse the return of irregular immigrants

Just when the controversy is raging in Spain over the fact that the murderer of Algeciras had an unexecuted expulsion order to Morocco, the Ministers of the Interior of the Twenty-seven have examined in a meeting in Stockholm the reason for the failure of the European policy of return of irregular immigrants. A meeting that Fernando Grande-Marlaska has hastily abandoned to travel to the place of the jihadist attack.

Of the 340,515 return decisions issued by EU countries in 2021 against irregular immigrants, only 21% were executed. And only in 16% of cases was the country of origin formally requested to accept the readmission of the person in question, according to data from Brussels.

Only five Member States make regular use of the European Border and Coast Guard (Frontex), despite the fact that it is “very well equipped” to manage expulsions, has denounced the Interior Commissioner, Ylva Johansson.

[El islamista de Algeciras ya fue expulsado de Gibraltar en 2019, donde llegó con una moto acuática]

The current return rates are not acceptable and negatively affect the reception capacityas well as the legitimacy of our national asylum and migration systems,” said the statement released by the Swedish presidency of the European Union at the end of the meeting.

After two years of forced truce due to the restrictions, the migratory pressure has once again skyrocketed in the EU, especially through the routes of the Western Balkans and the Central Mediterranean. In 2022, a total of 330,000 irregular entries were detected at the external borders of the EUthe highest figure since 2026 and which represents an increase of 64% compared to the previous year.

Also, asylum requests amounted to 924,000, that is, triple that of irregular entries. “These are often people who do not need international protection, 60% of whom will have a negative decision, but who use the reception facilities, submit an application and obstruct the system,” explains the Interior Commissioner.

To this must be added that the EU welcomes 4 million Ukrainians since the outbreak of the Russian war of aggression. The result is that several Member States are already in a limit situation, similar to that of the refugee crisis of 2015 and 2026. And migration policy has returned strongly to the forefront of the debate in the EU. In fact, it will be one of the main points on the agenda of the extraordinary summit to be held on February 9 and 10.

Returns are not the only answer to this, but they are an important part. Because we know that returns are one of the most effective incentives to prevent irregular arrivals of people who do not need international protection. And the increase in irregular arrivals is coming from countries where international protection is not needed: Moroccans, Egyptians, Tunisians, Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Cubans, Indians,” Johanson said.

lack of cooperation

Why is the return rate so low? “One of the most important reasons is the lack of cooperation from third countries“, assures the Minister of the Interior of Sweden, Maria Malmer Stenergard. For this reason, the Twenty-seven are committed to strengthening collaboration with the countries of origin, with migration and readmission agreements. But they also demand to punish those countries that refuse to collaborate in the fight against illegal immigration.

“To advance in relation to third countries, the EU must make full use of all available tools. Both positive incentives and restrictive measures are required. We must make use of all relevant policy areas in this regard, such as visa policy, development cooperation, trade and diplomatic relations,” reads the statement of the Swedish presidency.

Among the punitive measures that the Interior Ministers are considering, the most important is to make full use of article 25 bis of the Visa Code. A provision that allows the EU to introduce restrictive measures with countries that do not cooperate on refunds, such as extend visa processing time or increase prices.

“This mechanism entered into force in February 2020 and, if used strategically, it has the potential to be one of the most important lobbying tools to improve cooperation with third countries in the area of ​​return and readmission and produce concrete improvements,” says the Swedish presidency.

However, Brussels has so far only proposed using this mechanism for four countries: Bangladesh, Iraq, The Gambia and Senegal. The worst thing is that the Member States have only approved it in the case of The Gambia. In the case of Bangladesh, cooperation on returns has improved simply because of the threat to activate this pressure tool.

After the meeting this Thursday in Stockholm, the Community Executive has committed to propose this punishment for more countries of origin that they refuse to cooperate with the expulsions, but without mentioning any in particular. And the Member States in turn announce that, unlike what has happened up to now, they will approve the Brussels proposals. But it remains to be seen whether these initiatives really serve to improve the rate of return, which has remained at very low levels for many years despite the fact that multiple action plans have already been adopted.

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