Sunday

22nd Sep 2019

Electronic tagging may await rejected asylum seekers

  • Plans to forcibly return rejected asylum seekers could include placing them under electronic surveillance (Photo: Nikolaj Nielsen)

Rejected asylum applicants who refuse to leave the EU may end up being electronically tagged before being sent back home.

The plans are part of a larger effort by the European Commission to quickly dispatch those not entitled to EU residency.

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This includes using development assistance, trade agreements, trade preferences, and neighbourhood policy as leverage to impose readmission agreements with sub-Saharan and north African countries, according to a leaked European Commission communication draft.

The draft, which is part of the commission's upcoming proposals on migration, notes that African countries, where many asylum applicants originate from, are a priority.

EU commissioner for development Neven Mimica told reporters on Monday (7 September) that funds will also be diverted to projects to help rejected asylum applicants and others reintegrate once they have been sent back to their countries of origin.

Mimica, who described sustainable development as the strongest extension of EU power, said the idea is part of a “comprehensive package” that will combine development with internal affairs and the fight against human traffickers and smugglers.

The money will be funneled into a so-called EU Trust Fund and launched in Malta at a summit with African leaders in November.

Mimica said the EU should not be perceived “as supporting or paying for the return of irregular migrants to their countries of origin.”

Similar concerns were expressed in the commission paper, which says any assisted voluntary returns should be designed “to avoid creating pull factor.”

But with less than half of the 400,000 foreign nationals told to leave the EU each year actually packing their bags, the European Commission is proposing plans to beef up expulsions.

Approximately 425,000 people were issued with a return decision in 2013 but only around 167,000 left the EU, according to the EU’s statistical office Eurostat.

Member states that do not follow through with the returns may now be at greater risk of being taken to the EU court in Luxembourg as a result.

The details are outlined in a 13-page draft internal commission communication paper, seen by this website.

“Migrants who often paid their life savings to smugglers to bring them to Europe may not be ready to take up assisted voluntary returns unless they see they will be returned anyway”, notes the paper.

If no other solution is found, “returns must be enforced”, with “electronic surveillance” and “semi-closed facilities” as alternative measures to just locking people up, the paper adds.

Rejected asylum seekers can already be detained for up to 18 months under current rules outlined in the EU’s return directive.

But the paper suggests giving member states under pressure greater flexibility on “conditions of closed detention of migrants” and proposes a possible revision of the EU directive to amplify expulsion rules.

The commission says member states need to share information on return decisions and entry bans with others. But few follow through.

It means someone who is under the legal obligation to leave can avoid return by simply moving to any of the participating 26 Schengen passport-free EU states.

The commission wants them caught and sent home.

One idea in the paper proposes compulsory requirements to get member states to log entry bans and return decisions into the EU’s Schengen Information System (SIS).

This includes developing a ‘central automated fingerprint identification system’ for SIS and extending the scope of the EU's biometric common asylum registration system, Eurodac, to include returns.

The EU’s border agency Frontex will also have a greater role in kicking people out.

The Warsaw-based agency currently helps coordinate joint-return flights with member states but will, in the future, be able to charter flights by itself.

The agency has been awarded an extra €5 million for its budget next year for returns.

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Analysis

Will EU keep paying to keep migrants away?

The EU has made deals with several countries, such as Libya, Turkey, and Niger, to keep asylum seekers far away from Europe. Now it is planning to relocate some migrants to Rwanda, in response to the Libya migration crisis.

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Germany's chancellor says she is contact with Turkey over an EU deal to stop refugees from landing on Greek islands. But the arrival of over 500 in one day, amid grim conditions, piles on pressure.

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