28th Nov 2023

Frontex to spend €100m on returning migrants this year

  • Italian police returning a man to Nigeria, in 2017 (Photo: Investigative Reporting Project Italy (IRPI))
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The EU's border agency Frontex will spend around €100m this year to return unwanted and rejected asylum seekers.

"We are in a phase this year 2023, we will be spending around €100m for the return-related activities," Uku Särekanno, the agency's deputy director told MEPs on Monday (30 January).

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"So certainly for this year you will see a very significant increase of return operations and also hopefully the number of people who will be returned," he said.

The agency in 2021 returned some 18,300 people. Särekanno said the figure had increased last year, noting the agency also intends to launch anti-smuggling operations at ports like Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

Member states have for years been struggling to returning people they say are not entitled to stay.

Policy discussions and proposed solutions have also been going on for years, including under the previous commission headed by Jean-Claude Juncker.

But some states in Africa and elsewhere do not see this as a priority, preferring instead legal pathways for work and education.

The African Union has also in the past slammed EU efforts to provide travel passes to unwanted migrants who did not have proper identification documents.

But with the Warsaw-based agency given a boost in sending people back to their home countries, the EU has also been piling on pressure on foreign states to start accepting their own nationals.

"The EU should use all available policies, tools and instruments including development trade and visas as leverage to increase the effectiveness of EU's return policy," said Maria Malmer Stenergard, Sweden's minister of migration, on behalf of the rotating EU presidency, also on Monday.

Last week she made similar comments following a ministerial meeting among EU home affairs ministers, amid further plans to suspend visas to those countries that do not take back their nationals.

The suspension comes in the form of article 25a of the EU visa code, a threat already triggered against The Gambia.

The EU says that of the 330,000 irregular border crossings recorded and reported last year, more than a third came through the Western Balkans.

Almost one million people filed for asylum last year. According to the European Commission, around 60 percent will have a negative asylum decision.

"We've seen a lot of Moroccans, Egyptians, Tunisians, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Turks, Cubans, Indians, and of course, effective returns is really important here," said EU home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, last week.

The EU's statistical office Eurostat says of the 342,100 people ordered to leave in 2021, only 24 percent were returned.

The tough talk comes ahead of a special European Council meeting at the beginning of February, where migration will be on the agenda.

It also comes after Johansson presented a five-page policy document on returns, which includes plugging EU states in a digital IT network.

EU commission calls Frontex its new 'Return Agency'

The EU's law enforcement agency Frontex has been helping member states return unwanted migrants. The European Commission now wants it to take a lead role, while hoping to boost the number of voluntary deportations.


'Inhumane' Frontex forced returns going unreported

The independence of Frontex's monitoring system to make sure people are treated humanely when they are forcibly returned is in question. Efforts by some national authorities are underway to create a more credible parallel system based on transparency and scrutiny.

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