The inefficiencies of the European Union’s system for returning illegal migrants to their countries of origin are having the opposite effect from that expected, according to a special auditors report.
Instead of discouraging people from making the trip to Europe, they are actually encouraged to do so, according to the European Court of Auditors (ECA).
In the report published on Monday, the ECA said that of around 500,000 people who have been ordered to leave the EU since 2008, only 29% were ultimately deported. But only 19% – just one in five – who entered outside mainland Europe were returned.
Chief Auditor Leo Brincat told reporters that “effective” deportations are an “essential part of a comprehensive migration policy”.
“Nevertheless, the current EU return system suffers greatly from inefficiencies which lead to the reverse of the intended effect: encouraging rather than discouraging illegal migration,” he added.
The report warns, however, that any attempt to force countries to take back their citizens through coercion could be counterproductive.
The EU is deeply divided on how best to deal with the arrival of unauthorized migrants since more than a million people entered in 2015, mostly Syrians and Iraqis arriving in Greece in search of a sanctuary in Europe.
But most EU countries agree that the focus should be on preventing migrants from entering in the first place by entering into agreements with countries of origin or transit, and on deporting them. more of those who are not allowed to stay.
Brincat said he expected the auditors’ report to feed into the debate on the EU’s new pact on migration and asylum, introduced last year with the aim of producing coherent policy across the block.
The report notes that the EU is divided on whether to use coercive measures such as the suspension of development aid or sanctions or to employ political and economic incentives to encourage other countries to cooperate on the management of migrants.
In particular, the committee warned that it would use its visa policy to encourage countries to take back their citizens. In July, after scores of Iraqi migrants crossed Belarus on their way to EU member Lithuania, the committee threatened to impose visa restrictions on Iraqi diplomats and officials.
The decision aimed to “stimulate Iraq to improve its cooperation” by accepting the return of its citizens who have been refused entry into Europe, according to the committee. Flights from Iraq to the Belarusian capital of Minsk – once four a week – came to a screeching halt.
But Brincat said “at the end of the day, if you ask me, it’s because you can’t force cooperation by threatening a country to fall into place. It has to be a give and take, and there has to be an important element between the two parties: the element of trust.
Brincat urged the commission to quickly develop incentives to encourage outside countries to take back their populations, but said visa restrictions “will continue to be used repeatedly.”