18:47 GMT12 August 2020
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    BRUSSELS (Sputnik) - The European Commission (EC) on Wednesday proposed introducing tougher visa rules for countries that refuse to sufficiently cooperate on readmission of their citizens who entered the European Union illegally or overstayed.

    Under the new rules, countries that fail to cooperate on undocumented migrant returns could face a restrictive visa policy – longer visa procession procedures, higher visa fees, fewer exemptions given to visiting diplomats or greater restrictions on the length of time they can stay in the European Union.

    The EC notes that the proposal has a security purpose and aims to "mitigate irregular migration risks." However, it is part of a broader reform of the EU common visa policy, which also provides for faster visa procedures to boost travel and tourism industry, making it easier for "legitimate travelers" to obtain a visa.

    "The new rules will also make sure our common visa policy can help improve our cooperation with non-EU countries when it comes to the return of irregular migrants," EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship, Dimitris Avramopoulos said, as quoted in the EC press release.

    The EC is supposed to conduct regular assessment of non-EU countries' cooperation on readmission and implement retaliatory measures, if needed. Given the migration crisis that the European Union has been experiencing since 2015, the mechanism will mostly concern North African and Middle Eastern countries.

    Faults of EU Visa Policy, Schengen Area

    Raymond Finch, a member of the UK Independence Party and the European Parliament believes that the migration problem lies in deficiency of the EU visa system and open door policy which both have turned into a factor of danger for European states and definitely need to be reformed.

    "Thousands of returned Islamic jihadists from Syria and Iraq on European soil over the last months show that the present EU visa system is a farce and a danger to the security of many nations. It promises a false security blanket but its inadequacies should send a chill to millions of Europeans who are made vulnerable by it. The Schengen open borders policy allows free movement for tourists and terrorists alike, it's a bad idea which does not work," Finch said, obviously referring to the decision of some EU members to impose border control in a bid to curb the influx of undocumented migrants at the peak of the crisis.

    Third Countries Reluctant to Negotiate Readmission

    Minister of Asylum for Belgium Theo Francken described third countries’ reluctance to cooperate on readmission as a major problem, confronting the European Union while it is seeking to deport at least those undocumented migrants who have committed criminal offenses.

    "For forced return to the country of origin, we focus on detainees. The greatest difficulty is the partial collaboration or clear opposition by the countries of origin. It is only when a country of origin gives its OK and a ‘laissez-passer’ that a repatriation is organised. Some countries simply refuse any forced return, such as Iran. They don't care about international law, obliging them to do it. For some other countries, the process is slow and voluntarily complicated, so we get into it by inviting ambassadors or consuls to my cabinet or traveling there," Francken told Sputnik.

    The minister, however, noted that the European Union had reached some breakthrough in talks on the issue with Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Albania, Cameroon, Iraq and Turkey.

    According to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the strategy to manage migration in partnership with key countries, UN organizations and the African Union has already started delivering.

    "With the Joint AU–EU-UN Task Force, we assisted more than 15,000 people to return to their homes and start a new life, and we evacuated over 1.300 refugees from Libya. Cooperation and shared responsibilities are key to effectively address this global challenge," she said on Wednesday, when the commission announced its proposal.

    Courts Rulings Hinder Readmission

    While seeking to tackle the problem of readmission, the European Union also has to comply with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, which often takes the side of migrants and refugee seekers on humanitarian grounds, even if those committed criminal offenses.

    In January, the European Court ruled that Sweden could not repatriate a terrorist to Morocco "because Sweden could not prove that the man would not suffer bad treatment upon arrival in Morocco."

    Citing this decision earlier in the week, a Belgian court blocked the expulsion of a Moroccan terrorist who fought on the side of the Islamic State (IS, outlawed in Russia) terrorist group in Syria due to lack of guarantee that "the man will be well-treated upon arrival, according to Article 3 of the European Treaty on Human Rights."

    The next day after the ruling, Francken expressed his frustration over the issue and over his inability to enact the cooperation mechanism with Morocco due to the court decision.

    “We have an agreement with Morocco but can't apply it because of this court decision. I don't know what to do anymore with these Islamic fighters. The courts of justice make it impossible to lead an efficient policy," he said.

    Effectively, the proposed EU visa system reform is another attempt to address the worst migration crisis that Europe has been experiencing since 2015, which resulted in a wave of terrorists attacks across Europe and rise of right-wing forces.

    The proposals are also an attempt to bring diverging positions of EU member states on thebloc's migration policy closer and open the way to its reform set to be agreed by June 2018.


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