'Not acceptable': EU vows to punish 'uncooperative' countries over migrationComments
The EU has threatened to crack down on countries that do not cooperate over migration.
European interior ministers said on Thursday they wanted states to accept more deportations of people back to their country of origin from the bloc, if necessary by restricting the number of visas granted to "non-cooperative" countries.
EU ministers described the situation around migration as "tense", with the number of arrivals increasing, though critics say the amount -- which is far smaller than in the 2015 crisis -- is manageable for a wealthy region.
"We see irregular arrivals increasing... Returning those who are denied asylum to Europe is a very important issue," said Maria Malmer Stenergard, Sweden's Minister for Migration.
In 2021, European countries issued 340,500 decisions to return people to their country of origin. 21% of these were actually implemented, according to Eurostat data cited by the Commission.
People are legally allowed to challenge returns and appeal negative decisions for international protection.
"The current level is not acceptable," said Stenergard after the meeting.
She said there was "strong support" among EU member states to use visas as a tool to get countries to accept more of their nationals.
"If the political and diplomatic efforts [to improve cooperation with third countries] do not produce the expected results, the Member States call on the Commission to come back with proposals on visa restrictions", explained Stenergard.
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen also insisted on the need to "intensify" returns on Thursday.
She proposed a "pilot project" in the first half of this year aimed at speeding up screening procedures at the EU's external borders, with "immediate returns" for those who are not considered eligible for asylum.
Critics claim that fast-tracked screening of asylum-seekers on the EU's borders could lack proper checks and balances, and result in people being denied protection when they need it.
Von der Leyen wanted the EU to agree on a list of countries of origin deemed "safe".
To "prevent departures" and "improve returns", Brussels also wants to strike agreements with countries such as Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Nigeria.
After years of pandemic-related restrictions on movement, the number of migrants arriving in the EU has begun rising again.
The 330,000 "irregular entries" recorded in 2022 is the highest level since 2016, according to Frontex, an EU border agency.
The food crisis triggered by Russia’s illegal grain blockade of Black Sea ports this summer has added to the already urgent problems facing many developing countries.