EU wor­ried about mass ex­pul­sions as mi­grant cri­sis grows

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Daz­zled by an un­prece­dented wave of mi­gra­tion, Swe­den on Thurs­day put into words an un­com­fort­able re­al­ity for Europe: if the con­ti­nent isn’t go­ing to wel­come more than 1 mil­lion peo­ple a year, it will have to de­port large num­bers of them to coun­tries plagued by so­cial un­rest and ab­ject poverty.

In­te­rior Min­is­ter Anders Yge­man said Swe­den could send back 60,000-80,000 asy­lum seek­ers in the com­ing years. Even in a coun­try with a long his­tory of im­mi­gra­tion, that would be a scale of ex­pul­sions un­seen be­fore.

“The first step is to en­sure vol­un­tary re­turns,” Yge­man told Swedish news­pa­per Da­gens In­dus­tri. “But if we don’t suc­ceed, we need to have re­turns by co­er­cion.”

The co­er­cive part is where it gets un­com­fort­able. Pack­ing un­will­ing mi­grants, even en­tire fam­i­lies, onto char­tered air­planes bound for the Balkans, the Middle East or Africa evokes im­ages that clash with Europe’s hu­man­i­tar­ian ideals.

But the sharp rise of peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum in Europe last year al­most cer­tainly will also lead to much higher num­bers of re­jec­tions and de­por­ta­tions.

Euro­pean Union of­fi­cials have urged mem­ber coun­tries to quickly send back those who don’t qual­ify for asy­lum so that Europe’s wel­come can be fo­cused on those who do, such as peo­ple flee­ing the war in Syria.

“Peo­ple who do not have a right to stay in the Euro­pean Union need to be re­turned home,” said Natasha Ber­taud, a spokes­woman for the EU’s ex­ec­u­tive Com­mis­sion.

“This is a mat­ter of cred­i­bil­ity that we do re­turn th­ese peo­ple, be­cause you don’t want to give the im­pres­sion of course that Europe is an open door,” she said.

EU sta­tis­tics show most of those re­jected come from the Balkans in­clud­ing Al­ba­nia and Kosovo, some of Europe’s poor­est coun­tries. Many ap­pli­cants run­ning away from poverty in West Africa, Pak­istan and Bangladesh also are turned away. Even peo­ple from un­sta­ble coun­tries like Iraq, Afghanistan and So­ma­lia can’t count on get­ting asy­lum un­less they can prove they, per­son­ally, face grave risks at home.

Frans Tim­mer­mans, the Com­mis­sion’s vice-pres­i­dent, told Dutch TV sta­tion NOS this week that the ma­jor­ity of peo­ple seek­ing asy­lum in Europe are not refugees.

“More than half, 60 per cent, should have to re­turn much more quickly. If we start with do­ing that, it would al­ready make a huge dif­fer­ence,” he said.

Send­ing them back is eas­ier said than done. In 2014, EU na­tions re­turned less than 40 per cent of the peo­ple who were or­dered to be de­ported.

Some­times those seek­ing asy­lum go into hid­ing af­ter re­ceiv­ing a neg­a­tive de­ci­sion. Some­times their na­tive coun­try doesn’t want them back.


A refugee girl cries at refugee tran­sit cen­tre in Mace­do­nia be­fore con­tin­u­ing jour­ney to Ser­bia with her fam­ily Thurs­day. If the num­ber of mi­grants com­ing into the EU con­tin­ues, some au­thor­i­ties pre­dict mass ex­pul­sions may be ahead.

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