EU officials have reportedly acknowledged that the most recent wave of migration from Africa was “clearly and manifestly about economic migrants,” stating said migrants had no right to “enter European soil.”
According to The Express, European Council President Donald Tusk said in a letter to the EU heads of state in a letter that “illegal arrivals” into Italy have risen by 26% over the last year.
Tusk urged the leaders to approve more money for the Libyan Coastguard with the intent to train and equip them more efficiently.
According to The Express, the Eurocrats want the Libyans to take over the entire search and rescue operation of the Mediterranean as they believe this is the only way to break up the smuggling gangs.
If this is followed through, it will mean that migrants rescued in that area would be taken back to North Africa rather than being allowed entry to Europe, which is what happens currently if they’re rescued by a vessel flying the EU flag.
EU leaders also want to increase the rate of deportations for failed asylum seekers in an attempt to dissuade more migrants from arriving on the continent.
When quizzed about why Tusk’s letter used the term “illegal immigrants” rather than “asylum seekers” while speaking to the press on Wednesday, a top diplomat gave the honest answer.
“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,” he said according to The Express.
“They get to Europe illegally, they do not have any documents which would allow them to enter the European soil.”
The shift in language from “irregular” migrants to “illegal” suggests that the EU is committing to a harder stance on the subject of immigration and deportation.
“What Tusk stressed is the importance of looking at the rate of returns. This is somewhere where the progress still hasn’t been sufficient,” the official said on Wednesday.
“If there’s no effective return policy then we don’t have effective instruments to counteract pull factors.”
“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,” the official said on the subject of Libya being the bloc’s “biggest ally in the central Mediterranean.”
“We would be in a different place if the Libyan coastguard were more efficient, and if more of the burden to save people’s lives on the Mediterranean was on the Libyan coastguard rather than on the vessels with European flags,” he added.
Around 1.6 million migrants have landed on the shores of Europe in the past two-and-a-half years, according to The Express.
In 2015, the first large wave contained mostly Syrians and Iraqis fleeing war in the Middle East, with most of them entering the EU through the Greek islands.
Since a deal was made with Turkey to shut down that route of travel, migrants from North and Sub-Saharan Africa have been using the crossing between Libya and Italy to enter the EU. Smuggling gangs operate in the area in unseaworthy vessels, knowing that if anything goes wrong it does not matter as long as they leave Libyan waters.