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EU's new migrant returns policy at risk of creating more problems, legal expert says

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Migrants sleep outside the burned Moria refugee camp, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.
Migrants sleep outside the burned Moria refugee camp, on the northeastern Aegean island of Lesbos, Greece, on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020.   -   Copyright  Petros Giannakouris/AP
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The European Commission's new migration pact and returns policy is dangerous for the protection of human rights and creates "more walls" instead of solving problems, a legal expert has told Euronews.

Massimo Frigo, a senior legal advisor to the International Commission of Jurists, said that the pact will create more work for law enforcement and the courts because there will "be clashes with the international law obligations of the states".

"These are measures that are very dangerous for the protection of human rights, for the protection of the principle of non-refoulement, which is the basic principle of not to send someone to a country where they are at risk of torture or their lives are at risk," Frigo said.

The Commission's new migration pact allows member states that do not want to receive refugees to instead sponsor returns, which many experts have said is a plan that could backfire.

On average, 370,000 EU asylum applications per year are refused, but only a third actually go back.

Other international organisations have helped with returning some migrants to their native countries.

Lungile, who is South African, was assisted by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), after he came to Europe with the hope of playing professional football.

The promise of doing so in Spain, where he arrived in 2019, was never delivered though, due to money problems with his agent. However, Lungile's request for asylum in Belgium was also refused on the basis that it was a Spanish problem.

But then his situation back home changed and he decided he must return to South Africa.

"When I got here, I had three football clubs interested, but I could not join them because I did not have the work permit, I did not have my paper, so I only did training," Lungile said.

"Last July, I had my firstborn so I have to think about that, I cannot waste all this time while he is young and also the mother... I have to do all I can to try to be there and help rather them bringing them and travelling around with them... I do not want them to go through the stress and panic that I went through."

The IOM ended up funding his return ticket and he means to start an educational podcast that will talk about his professional challenges.

The Belgium government is also part of the IOM's project and it said that it sees room to improve the EU's returns process.

"I think that the majority leaving are single men, but more and more we see families with children returning, more and more vulnerable cases, people that have been on the streets and undocumented for a long time," Niels Baetens, Manager for Voluntary Return at Fedasil (the Belgian Federal Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers) told Euronews.

"So for their preparation and integration back, it is important to take time and give them enough support and have liable partners in the country of origin."

The European Commission will now appoint a Returns Coordinator to work with member states and third countries, as it looks to increase the number of migrants and refugees that return to their countries of origin.