Officials in Brussels said the newest wave of migration from North Africa was “clearly and manifestly about economic migrants” and said those people had no right to “enter European soil”.
Via: Nick Gutteridge
European leaders are expected to back significantly toughening up the policing of the continent’s outer borders when they meet for an EU Council summit in the Belgian capital tomorrow.
In a letter to EU heads of state its president Donald Tusk said that “illegal arrivals” to Italy had rocketed by 26 per cent over the last year and urged them to approve more cash to train and equip the Libyan coastguard.
Eurocrats ultimately want the Libyans to take over the entire search and rescue operation in the central Mediterranean, believing that this is the only way to smash the business model of smuggling gangs.
That would mean migrants saved at sea would be taken back to North Africa rather than being shipped to Europe, which currently happens if they are rescued by a vessel operating under an EU flag.
Currently people smugglers pack people into unseaworthy vessels, knowing that they only need to get them out beyond Libyan national waters and into the central Med where they will hopefully be picked up by EU search vessels.
On top of bolstering the Libyan coastguard EU leaders also want to significantly up the rate of returns for failed asylum seekers in order to deter further economic migration.
At tomorrow’s summit they intend to approve an expanded list of agreed “safe” third countries, smoothing the legal process by which all member states can deport irregular migrants.
During a press briefing this morning a top diplomat was quizzed over why Mr Tusk had referred to people as “illegal” immigrants in his letter rather than asylum seekers or refugees.
The official replied: “In most of the cases, and that is actually the case on the central Mediterranean route, we’re talking clearly and manifestly about economic migrants.
“They get to Europe illegally, they do not have any documents which would allow them to enter the European soil.”
Up until now, senior EU officials have preferred to refer to people arriving in Italy and Greece as “irregular” migrants, denoting the fact they did not enter Europe through official channels . A shift in language to “illegal” suggests a significant hardening of that stance, criminalising this form of migration and paving the way for more deportations.
In most cases we’re talking clearly and manifestly about economic migrants
The official said: “They could be our most important ally on the central Mediterranean route and we should make everything we can so that they work robustly against the smugglers and clearly on our side.
“We would be in a different place if the Libyan coastguard were more efficient, and if more of the burden to save people’s lives on the Mediterranean was on the Libyan coastguard rather than on the vessels with European flags.”