A TOTAL of 27 migration ministers under the European Union (EU) are meeting to review strategies to curb irregular migration which has continued to soar, posing economic challenges for the continent.
EU border agency Frontex reported some 330,000 unauthorised arrivals last year, the highest since 2016, with a sharp increase on the Western Balkans route.
About 160,000 people are believed to have crossed the Mediterranean to Europe in 2022, fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia.
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson, said on Thursday that the increase in irregular arrivals of migrants was huge and the bloc received 924,000 asylum applications, but the return rate remained low and the meeting was to discuss ways to make “significant progress” in deportation.
“That means we have three times more asylum applications than irregular arrivals, and these are overloading the reception capacities and many of those [migrants] are not in need of international protection,” she said.
Denmark, the Netherlands and Latvia were among those to call for more pressure through visas and development aid towards the roughly 20 countries – including Iraq and Senegal – that the EU deems fail to cooperate on taking back their nationals who have no right to stay in Europe.
The ministerial talks come ahead of a February 9-10 summit of EU leaders who will also seek more returns, according to their draft joint decision seen by Reuters.