Belgium, (Brussels Morning Newspaper) EU interior ministers discussed plans to rein in illegal migration at the meeting in Stockholm on Thursday.
They discussed various options, including asylum centres outside the bloc, border walls and sanctions against uncooperative nations, according to DW reporting.
Maria Malmer Stenergard, Swedish Minister for Migration and Asylum Policy, pointed out “returning those who have been denied asylum in Europe is a really important issue.”
According to Swedish officials, the EU should limit visas or even leverage aid to pressure uncooperative nations.
After Gambia refused to take back its citizens, the EU introduced a visa regime and is considering similar measures against Iraq and Bangladesh.
Austria called for a wall worth some 2 billion euro between Bulgaria and Turkey, with Chancellor Karl Nehammer stressing that the European Commission should pay for it.
The EC would instead like to see more EU Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) involvement, while MEP Juan Fernando López Aguilar expressed belief that “a fence might be part of an extraordinary measure… but never the solution itself.”
Denmark has been negotiating with Rwanda to host an asylum claims centre, with Minister for Immigration and Integration Kaare Dybvad noting “we are still working to make that happen.”
He noted that Denmark would prefer to do it with other EU member states, but stressed that the country is prepared to strike a deal with Rwanda alone “as a last resort.”
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser noted “we want to conclude migration agreements with countries, particularly with North African countries, that would allow a legal route to Germany but would also include functioning returns.”
The issue of illegal migration has come under the spotlight in the EU again after Frontex reported approximately 330,000 illegal arrivals last year, the highest figure since 2016.
According to EC statistics, the number of executed orders for return of migrants to their home countries after bloc members rejected their asylum requests is still low and stood at 21% in 2021.
Ylva Johansson, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, warned “we have a huge increase of irregular arrivals of migrants” and concluded “we have a very low return rate and I can see we can make significant progress here.”