EU urges members to deport more migrants ineligible to stay
This image provided by German humanitarian organisation Sea-watch shows a boat carrying a group of migrants in distress in the Southern Mediterranean Sea, Saturday March 11, 2023. 30 migrants were missing and 17 were rescued some 100 nautical miles (180 kilometres) from Libya's coast after the boat overturned while a commercial vessel was trying to take them aboard, the Italian coast guard reported Sunday night. (Christian Gohdes/Sea-Watch via AP)

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union on Tuesday urged its member countries to deport more people who enter Europe without authorisation and who are not eligible to stay, saying that only around one in five would-be migrants who should be sent home actually is.

"Last year, we had a return rate of only 21 per cent of those who are not eligible to stay," EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson told reporters at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. "When we fail to return people, this hampers our system and erodes trust."

Johansson said that 340,000 decisions were handed down in EU member nations last year to deport people, but that only in 60 per cent of cases did European authorities try to contact the migrants' home countries to get them accepted back in.

"To protect the right to apply for asylum we have to show that we are appropriately dealing with those who do not qualify for international protection," she said. "We need migration, but it has to be in a legal and orderly way."

The arrival of well over one million migrants in 2015 — mostly people fleeing war in Syria or Iraq — sparked one of the EU's biggest political crises. Member countries bickered over who should take responsibility for the migrants who enter, and whether other members should be obliged to help.

The row continues today. Repeated attempts to reform the asylum system have been made, but there's been little progress. Unable to resolve the core dispute, the EU has turned to paying the countries that people leave or transit to prevent them setting out in the first place.

Johansson said the EU's border and coastguard agency "is well equipped" to organise deportation flights, and urged the bloc's 27 member countries to take advantage of them.

"We have a good political agreement with Bangladesh," the EU's top migration official noted. She said a Frontex flight would depart for Bangladesh on Wednesday with 68 "returnees" aboard. "This is the way we should work together," Johansson said.

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