Sunday

25th Sep 2022

EU mulls visa restrictions over migrant returns

  • EU commission mulling visa restrictions on countries that refuse to take back their nationals (Photo: Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI))

Countries that refuse to take back their nationals from the EU could face visa restrictions in future.

The European Commission, on Friday (12 March), announced it was ready to make the visa-restriction proposals by summer.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"I am ready to table proposals to the [EU] Council already this summer for making restrictions on the visa policy," said EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

"Now is time to go to action," she noted, adding that a "limited number of countries" can expect to be contacted.

Johansson made the statement to reporters following a meeting of EU interior ministers.

The threat comes amid a confidential European Commission report.

The document lists 39 countries around the world, evaluating their levels of cooperation in 2019 when it comes to readmissions and returns of migrants.

Johansson would not disclose names or provide any figures on countries that could face the restrictions. But she said EU rules were clear and should be used as leverage.

"We have the tools, of course we should use it, both in a way to make more generous visa policy but also to propose a more strict visa policy," she said.

Turkey appears to be among the 39 on the list, according to Portugal's internal affairs minister Eduardo Cabrita.

The EU had agreed almost five years ago with Turkey to swap migrants with refugees landing on the Greek islands in exchange for political concessions and billions in EU funding.

The deal, also known as a statement because it has no legal bearing, has since been frozen.

The issue has riled Johansson, who pointed out that EU member states have resettled up to 3,000 refugees from Turkey since August, despite Covid-19.

"But Turkey has not resumed the returns from the Greek islands and this is what I expect them to do," she pointed out.

The EU's border agency Frontex had also sent Johansson a letter following reported shooting incidents last week from inside the Turkish land border with Greece.

Johansson said the issue will be broached in her planned visit later this month to Greece.

Meanwhile, EU foreign affairs and interior ministers will be holding a joint session on Monday (15 March).

The ministers are set to discuss migration as member states ramp up their ambitions to return unwanted and failed asylum seekers.

Johansson said she hopes their meeting will carve out a timeline on when to table the visa restriction proposal.

But it will also be an opportunity to delve into an EU Portuguese presidency priority.

Cabrita, speaking on the behalf the rotating presidency, said it involves a proposal for "enhanced cooperation between the EU and the countries in north Africa."

This includes everything from migration to police cooperation, he said.

As for issues relating to solidarity among member states when it comes to sharing asylum seekers inside the EU, Cabrita drew a more sober prognosis.

"We are narrowing the gap but we still have a lot of work ahead," he said.

Analysis

Lack of legal clarity on EU 'pushbacks' of migrants at sea

Frontex is invoking EU interception rules, plus a European Court of Human Rights case against Spain, as precedents to allow authorities to turn back migrants in boats in the Aegean Sea. But legal analysis by the EU Commission says otherwise.

Reality bites EU's 'No More Morias' pledge

The EU's hotspot of Moria, a sprawling ghetto-like camp for migrants and refugees on the Greek island of Lesbos, burned down last September. EU leaders declared such scenes would never be replicated. But its replacement faces similar problems.

Frontex's 'serious incident reports' - revealed

Out of the seven serious incident reports shared with this website, five deal with allegations against Greek authorities, while the remainder describe separate incidents in Germany and Hungary.

Turkey snubs Greece on migrant returnees

The Greek government last week requested that the European Commission and EU border agency Frontex help return 1,450 failed asylum seekers to Turkey. Turkey has refused, citing the pandemic.

EU migration and asylum pact faces reality check

The EU wants to finalise the overhaul of the migration and asylum laws before the end of the current mandate in 2024. But big issues on solidarity remain unsolved, including in the European Parliament.

Opinion

Could blockchain help EU process asylum claims?

Asylum proceedings are one of the biggest issues with the EU's migration policy, and digital identification through blockchain to register and track refugees would be an instrumental step towards the level of necessary reform.

News in Brief

  1. More Russians now crossing Finnish land border
  2. Report: EU to propose €584bn energy grid upgrade plan
  3. Morocco snubs Left MEPs probing asylum-seeker deaths
  4. EU urges calm after Putin's nuclear threat
  5. Council of Europe rejects Ukraine 'at gunpoint' referendums
  6. Lithuania raises army alert level after Russia's military call-up
  7. Finland 'closely monitoring' new Russian mobilisation
  8. Flights out of Moscow sell out after Putin mobilisation order

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDA - Soft Drinks EuropeCall for EU action – SMEs in the beverage industry call for fairer access to recycled material
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic prime ministers: “We will deepen co-operation on defence”
  3. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBConstruction workers can check wages and working conditions in 36 countries
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Canadian ministers join forces to combat harmful content online
  5. European Centre for Press and Media FreedomEuropean Anti-SLAPP Conference 2022
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling

Latest News

  1. Ireland joins EU hawks on Russia, as outrage spreads
  2. Editor's weekly digest: Plea for support edition
  3. Investors in renewables face uncertainty due to EU profits cap
  4. How to apply the Nuremberg model for Russian war crimes
  5. 'No big fish left' for further EU sanctions on Russians
  6. Meloni's likely win will not necessarily strengthen Orbán
  7. France latest EU member to step up government spending in 2023
  8. Big Tech now edges out Big Energy in EU lobbying

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us