Von der Leyen pushes EU to ‘urgent action’ on migration



The Kapıkule Border Gate in northwestern Türkiye's Edirne province bordering Bulgaria, Nov. 17, 2020. (IHA Photo)

The Kapıkule Border Gate in northwestern Türkiye’s Edirne province bordering Bulgaria, Nov. 17, 2020. (IHA Photo)


Ibrahim Şerif, head of the Consultative Committee of the Turkish Minority of Western Thrace (BTTADK) and elected mufti of Komotini (Gümülcine), speaks at a panel in Edirne, Eastern Thrace, Türkiye, Jan. 7, 2023. (AA File Photo)

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The European Commission chief has called on the European Union to “act urgently” on soaring migrant crossings and bolster the infrastructure at the land border dividing Bulgaria and Türkiye.

Speaking at the European Parliament plenary session on Thursday, Ursula von der Leyen said there were “without any doubt increasing pressures” at the EU’s external borders.

She said the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) registered 330,000 irregular border crossings in 2022, which was up 64% from the previous year and the highest since 2016.

Von der Leyen claimed that “the majority of those who apply for asylum are not in need of protection” while return rates remain as low as 22%.

To make a “real difference on the ground,” the European Commission will propose “immediate action” in four areas to EU leaders at a special summit on migration on Feb. 9-10, she said.

“The most pressing issues right now are at the land border between Bulgaria and Türkiye” and the border management capabilities need to be strengthened, according to von der Leyen.

Under the commission’s proposal, the EU could provide “infrastructure and equipment, like drones, radar and other means of surveillance” and increase Frontex’s presence, she said.

In addition, the EU should also address the growing migratory pressure in the Central Mediterranean and crack down on smuggling networks.

The bloc also has to ensure more and quicker dignified returns of those whose asylum application was refused, as well as “solidarity and responsibility” between member states in managing applications, she said.

As the fourth point of action, the EU must find a “fair balance” in cooperation with neighboring countries and countries of origin.

“Talent partnerships, visa policy, trade and investment play an important role here, as well as opportunities for safe and legal pathways as part of our overall comprehensive approach to migration management,” said von der Leyen.

Sitting right on the cusp of the EU’s easternmost border and home to the biggest refugee community fleeing the war in neighboring Syria, Türkiye attracts illegal migrants from around the world seeking to cross into Europe.

In the east, refugees from Asian countries, particularly Afghanistan, enter from the southeastern borders. Syrian migrants often head to Türkiye’s western Aegean shores to get into Greece, their gateway to Europe, or take the land route in the northwest, into Greece and Bulgaria. Their journeys are perilous as some perish at sea aboard unsafe dinghies while in other cases, Greece often resorts to illegal “pushbacks,” beatings and sending migrants back toward Türkiye even in challenging weather conditions, causing deaths in freezing weather.

Pushbacks are a pressing issue that came to the fore in recent years when allegations of a cover-up of human rights violations by Frontex officials surfaced. The agency has long been accused of turning a blind eye to the Greek coast guard’s inhuman practice and reports of sinking boats traveling from Türkiye to Greece.

Greece in the meantime is looking to extend the length of its 5-meter-high (16-foot high) steel fence along its river border with Türkiye to stem the flow of asylum-seekers.

source https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/eu-affairs/von-der-leyen-pushes-eu-to-urgent-action-on-migration

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