WITHTwo values have remained unchanged for years, regardless of how many people in the European Union ask for asylum: only one in three is recognized in the first instance. And of those who do not receive protection, only a third return to their home countries. The EU interior ministers discussed this virtually on Friday. Next Monday, they will line up with foreign ministers to discuss a larger package of incentives, from development aid to legal immigration of skilled workers. It is the only point on migration policy on which everyone agrees: Member States must deport more effectively. But how?
Political correspondent for the European Union, NATO and the Benelux countries based in Brussels.
After all, they have a new instrument, which Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson specifically pointed out on Friday. In mid-February, the Commission assessed for the first time how 39 third countries fared in taking back their nationals. This would show them in black and white “how they cooperate and how the member states see the cooperation so that we can put pressure on them”.
Three adjusting screws
The lever for this has been created by a new clause in the Schengen Visa Code, which has been in force since February 2020. Accordingly, the commission not only reports annually on the willingness of the countries of origin to cooperate, it can also turn three screws to reward – or punish – good behavior. This concerns the amount of the visa fee (in the best case: 60 euros), the deadline in which a decision is made on an application (at least 10 days), and the extension of the validity of a visa for multiple entries.
The ministers have to decide whether they want to use this lever – and in which cases. Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer urged “that we make use of this instrument quickly”. Those who do not take back their citizens “cannot expect any visa relief”. The CSU politician is convinced that only a hard line in the case of deportations paves the way to an agreement on the fair distribution of those really in need of protection.
The basis of the deliberations was a confidential classified report with 105 pages in which all 39 states are evaluated according to fixed criteria. This report is also before the FAZ – it highlights how bad cooperation is with those states from which a particularly large number of people illegally enter the EU without any prospect of protection. Of the top 10 countries of origin in 2020, only one achieved an effective return rate of 29 percent – Morocco. No wonder, it also gets by far the most money from EU programs, up to 1.6 billion euros in the past seven years. Other states are also funded, but take back fewer relatives. In order of return rate: Turkey (24 percent), Tunisia (22), Algeria (19), Pakistan (11), Bangladesh and Sudan (9), Afghanistan (8), Somalia (4), Ivory Coast (3). Of course, it is not only up to these states whether deportations succeed – but also.
A take-back procedure goes through several phases
The report brings more to light. A take-back procedure goes through several phases. First the deporting state files an application, then the person has to be identified. States that cooperate well recognize identity documents even if they have expired. Others require a complex identity check – which often delays procedures. In the next step, a travel document must be issued. Some states accept a provisional laissez-passer for transfer only. Others insist on new papers and personal appointments at their consulates; that can drag on for years. Once this hurdle has been overcome, the return flight remains. The most efficient are charter flights, with which larger contingents are returned accompanied by officials. For this, however, complex special permits are often required. Many states only accept line machines.
The European Union has concluded return agreements with seven of the 39 third countries evaluated, and arrangements are in place with six others. There are national agreements with most other countries, sometimes more, sometimes less. Most of the time, such regulations facilitate deportation. They also explain why the EU states have reported very different experiences to Brussels – while some call the cooperation best, others regularly fail. But agreements are no guarantee of success. Although Pakistan signed a deal with the EU as early as 2010, the repatriation is proving to be tough. It is the same with Afghanistan, one of the most important countries of origin, which has concluded seven bilateral agreements with EU countries. About Bangladesh it is said that the rules agreed with the EU are “seldom or almost never followed”. The authorities “regularly” did not respond to requests to identify their citizens.