EU Commissioner Rejected the Idea of Financing a Fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish Border
European Union interior ministers discussed on Thursday ways to curb illegal immigration and return more migrants amid a surge in arrivals following lows during the pandemic, Reuters reported.
The agency notes that controversial ideas about border fences and centers for asylum seekers outside Europe have been revived.
European Commissioner for Internal Affairs Ylva Johansson has rejected the request of Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer for financing the additional construction of the fence along the Bulgarian-Turkish border.
In her words, "there is no money for this in the EU budget. So if we spend money on walls and fences, there will be no money for other things".
Increased migrant pressure
The European border agency Frontex reported nearly 330,000 new illegal arrivals last year, the highest level since 2016. A sharp rise is observed on the route through the Western Balkans.
"We have a huge increase in illegal migrants," Ylva Johansson said during the meeting. "We have a very low return rate and I think we can make significant progress on that," she added.
Denmark, the Netherlands and Latvia were among the countries calling for more pressure through visas and development aid for nearly 20 countries, including Iraq and Senegal. According to the EU, they do not cooperate with the return of their citizens who do not have the right to remain in Europe.
Only a fifth of these people were returned last year, and according to the European Commission, insufficient resources and coordination by the EU are another obstacle.
The ministerial meeting was held ahead of the February 9-10 European Council, which will also consider increasing the return of migrants to their countries, according to a draft joint statement seen by Reuters.
Walls and fences
Denmark has held talks with Rwanda about the African country accepting asylum applications from East African applicants, and some European countries have called for funding for a border fence between Bulgaria and Turkey. Both ideas were considered taboo until recently.
"We are still working to make this happen, preferably with other European countries, but as a last resort, we will do it in cooperation between Denmark and, for example, Rwanda," Danish Immigration Minister Kaare Dybvad said on Thursday.
Dutch Migration Minister Eric van der Burg has said he is open to European funding for border fences.
Politico notes that the rising number of arrivals has put the explosive topic of migration back on the EU agenda, and some leaders - such as Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer - have publicly called on the EU to fund a €2 billion fence along Turkey's border with Bulgaria from where more and more migrants cross into the EU.
Johansson resisted pressure from member states such as Austria to use EU funds to build border control infrastructure.
On the fences, she repeated the position of the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen: “There is no money in the EU budget for this. So if we spend money on walls and fences, there will be no money for other things.”
The APA agency, quoted by BTA, reports that the Minister of the Interior of Austria, Gerhard Karner, has repeated Vienna's request for the allocation of European funds. The agency adds that, according to the minister, lively debates took place on the subject, and at the end of them there was "movement on the case".
Many countries whose borders are also external borders of the EU need help, the Austrian interior minister emphasized. "I think that many countries will be interested in the border becoming better guarded," the minister said, referring to the Bulgarian-Turkish border. For this purpose, the support of the European Commission is needed "in various aspects", for example for technical facilities, but also in the matter "relating to the fences".
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