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Brussels unveils plan to boost returns of irregular migrants

The European Commission presented "a new operation strategy" on Tuesday to increase the return of irregular migrants.

Only 21% of migrants who irregularly enter the European Union go back to their countries of origin, even if they receive a negative decision on their asylum request by a member state, according to the Commission.

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Ylva Johansson, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, said that the proposals aim to boost these numbers.

"It is necessary that immediately after [the negative decision], member states do the readmission request for that country [of origin]. [Then] we can act on the decision and actually fly these people back to the country of origin," Johansson said.

"That is why it is so important that we work together. The member states can not solve [the issue] alone, but the European Commission can not solve it alone either."

An irregular migrant is defined as a person who does not meet the requirements to enter or remain in the EU.

The European Commission is concerned that in 2022 there were 924,000 applications for asylum, an increase of 50% compared to 2021.

The countries that received the highest number of requests were France, Germany, Spain, and Austria.

Some member states argue that the problem is that not all irregular migrants are entitled to international protection but that by applying they put too much pressure on the asylum system.

According to Catherine Woollard, director of the European Council on Refugees and Exile, there are other solutions available for economic migrants,

"One would be increasing channels for legal migration which actually have been declining in Europe over the last 20 years," Woollard told Euronews.

"Those are people that may want to come to Europe to take out work and indeed, at the same time, Europe needs workers."

Brussels is willing to increase its work with countries of origin that respect human rights. But Woollard said it would be better to focus resources on cooperation and development.

"The real obstacle is in the country of origin due to the unpopularity and resentment about the efforts and pressure from Europe to return people, which is not a priority for many of those countries," she said.

"Particularly, in the context where they are benefitting from remittances, flows of finances, knowledge and expertise that come from their nationals having moved abroad," she added.