European Union officials, including EU Council President Donald Tusk, have admitted most of the migrants coming from Africa into Italy are not legitimate refugees or asylum seekers, but illegal migrants.
Mr. Tusk wrote a letter earlier this week to the various heads of state in the political bloc saying that illegal migration had gone up 26 per cent in Italy compared to last year. Tusk said the current EU policy was “not enough” and that the Mediterranean route needed to be controlled proposing the EU support the Libyan coastguard, Salzburger Nachrichten reports.
Top EU diplomats have also sounded the alarm over the number of illegal migrants flooding into Europe through the Mediterranean route.
“In most of the cases, and that is actually the case on the central Mediterranean route, we’re talking clearly and manifestly about economic migrants,” an EU official said earlier this week during a press conference.
“They get to Europe illegally, they do not have any documents which would allow them to enter the European soil,” the official added.
The official then clarified what Mr. Tusk wrote in his letter saying: “What Tusk stressed is the importance of looking at the rate of returns. This is somewhere where the progress still hasn’t been sufficient.”
Many countries, most notably Germany, have had an increasingly difficult time deporting illegal migrants or failed asylum seekers to countries in Africa due to a lack of cooperation from foreign governments as many migrants arrive with no papers.
The official noted that further cooperation with the Libyan government was paramount in tackling the crisis. “They could be our most important ally on the central Mediterranean route and we should make everything we can so that they work robustly against the smugglers and clearly on our side,” he said.
Most of the migrants rescued at sea are rescued by ships with European flags, many of them belonging to pro-migrant NGOs, and take the migrants to Europe, rather than back to North Africa. Many have slammed the NGOs claiming they are working intentionally with people traffickers as they wait for boats only miles off the Libyan coast.
Some politicians, like Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, have called for the EU to strengthen its presence in the Mediterranean. “As long as they rescuing people in the Mediterranean also means a ticket to Europe, more will come, ” he said adding, “we decide who is coming and going, not the people smugglers.”