European Union governments are set to agree on Thursday to step up deportations of illegal immigrants among the hundreds of thousands who have failed to win asylum as they try to cope with a surge in refugees from war-torn Syria.
Diplomats say interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg should agree, among other things, to back the detention of those who may abscond before expulsion and exert more pressure on African and other poor states, including via aid budgets, to make them accept the return of citizens refused entry to Europe.
In the evening, they will be joined by EU foreign ministers and delegations from Balkan states, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon for talks on stemming migrant flows that have plunged the bloc into crisis, dividing members over how to secure the EU external borders and how to share responsibility for housing refugees.
The meetings are part of efforts to implement a package of measures put forward by EU officials over the past six months and which have this week involved the start of negotiations with Turkey, temporary home to more than half of the four million Syrian refugees, to try and discourage people from travelling.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who angered some of her eastern neighbours over the summer by offering a welcome to more Syria refugees, made clear in a speech on Wednesday that Europe would also do more to deter and expel the hundreds of thousands who reach Europe every year illegally in search of prosperity.
She told the European Parliament that while offering a safe haven to those fleeing war and persecution was a duty, the EU must also tighten its arrangements with poorer nations “so that those who have no prospect of staying (as refugees) are actually taken back to their home countries.”
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