EU Commission proposes increasing migrant deportations, document says

by Reuters
Wednesday, 10 February 2021 13:49 GMT

Migrants are seen at a tent in the Canarias 50 Camp, after being transferred from hotels on the south of the island, in Gran Canaria, Spain January 26, 2021. REUTERS/Borja Suarez

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The proposal said it was unrealistic that the EU, a wealthy bloc of almost 500 million people, could take in all migrants

By Robin Emmott

BRUSSELS, Feb 10 (Reuters) - The European Commission has proposed speedier deportations of migrants who do not meet asylum requirements, according to a document sent to EU states on Wednesday that envisages "effective enforcement" of removal decisions.

The proposal, which was also made public, says while deportations would be voluntary, the EU would help home countries better reintegrate migrants in a move it hopes would encourage more people to make the return journey. The Commission could also potentially fine EU governments that do not meet proposed new deportation rules.

Tuesday's 12-page proposal is part of a broader Commission plan launched last September to overhaul broken migration rules to resolve years of bitterness among EU states and provide a better welcome for refugees fleeing the Middle East and Africa.

In 2015, more than a million people made it to EU shores, overwhelming security and welfare networks, and inflaming far-right sentiment.

"The Commission will pursue a better-functioning common EU system of returns," said the document, dated Feb. 10, using EU terminology for deportations.

The document signals quicker deportations, referring to "implementation of the return procedures, such as the issuance of return decisions and their effective enforcement".

The Commission hopes that by increasing the number of deportations, it can convince EU governments to open up more legal pathways to those granted asylum and provide them with access to schools, healthcare, housing and jobs.

The proposal said it was unrealistic that the EU, a wealthy bloc of almost 500 million people, could take in all migrants. The document said that in 2019 only 30% of those applying for asylum for the first time were recognised needing protection.

However, EU states return home just a third of those who are due to be deported and few are willing to go voluntarily, although the Commission noted that the COVID-19 pandemic had made sending people back harder.

"Even though travel restrictions remain in place across the globe, asylum and return procedures should continue," the Commission said, listing a lack of resources in EU states, long appeal processes and migrants who try to hide from authorities as obstacles to speedier deportations.

After years of focusing on agreeing an EU relocating system to house asylum seekers across the bloc, the focus on deportations aims to show EU governments that only those in need of help would be given it, and that states should assist them.

Feuds over where to locate people have caused tensions between the Mediterranean-shore countries where they mainly arrive, the reluctant eastern states, and the richer northern states where many of the newcomers aspire to live.

However, the Commission proposal, which must be agreed by all 27 EU governments, aims to create a voluntary system, meaning that migrants are helped to reintegrate into their home countries with money and other support from the EU.

"The Commission will adopt a voluntary return and reintegration strategy," the document said, adding that the bloc could broaden its aid and counselling programmes for returnees. "Voluntary returns combined with effective reintegration strategies increase the acceptance and success rates of these operations."

(Reporting by Robin Emmott, Editing by William Maclean)