AP NewsBreak: EU looks to step up migrant deportation

AP News
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Posted: Mar 18, 2015 1:54 PM

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is looking to step up the deportation of migrants as part of a drive to counter the impression that asylum-seekers will enjoy a good life once they make it to Europe.

An internal EU document on action to deal with the migrant influx, obtained by The Associated Press Wednesday, urges member countries to "take action to curb the level of expectation" of would-be asylum seekers.

"The swift return of migrants could serve as an example to counter the vain promise that migrants will see an immediate improvement in their lives," said the EU presidency text, obtained ahead of a two-day summit of EU leaders starting Thursday.

More than 276,000 migrants entered the EU illegally last year, many fleeing poverty or conflict. Strife-torn Libya is the main jumping off point for people headed to Europe, and governments are increasingly concerned that extremists are also making the Mediterranean crossing hidden in refugee boats.

Also on the summit agenda Friday is the EU's action to support the U.N. mediation process in Libya to encourage the formation of a government of national unity and bring some measures of stability there.

The subject of enforced migrant returns has been highly controversial in Europe. In 2009, refugee groups protested against joint flights organized by Britain and France to send migrants back to Afghanistan.

But European border agencies have been widely criticized for failing to cope with the migrant influx, and the EU has begun to look at options abroad like sending immigration officials to embassies to pre-screen people in the countries they leave or transit.

The new measures are yet more evidence of the EU's desire to shift the onus for illegal immigration more onto countries in Africa, notably Libya's neighbors.

The document said that "more efforts are needed with regard to certain transit countries", including Turkey, Egypt and Tunisia. No details were provided about how the EU return policy might now be enforced.

Italy, which has borne the brunt of the migrant wave, urged its EU partners last week to set up migrant reception centers in northern Africa as efforts to beef up the Frontex borders agency falter. A test phase has already been planned for Niger, and Tunisia said this week that it was willing to discuss the EU plan.

The number of asylum applications in the EU has more than doubled since 2006 to almost 450,000 in 2013, according to the most recent official EU figures. Just over a third of those applications were accepted for humanitarian reasons or because they faced persecution in their home countries.