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4 Nov, 2023 16:24

Illegal immigration could bring down governments – EU state

Germany must toughen its immigration policies, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg has said
Illegal immigration could bring down governments – EU state

The EU must step up external border security and deportations or risk the collapse of governments, Austrian Foreign Minister Alexander Schallenberg warned on Saturday. Schallenberg called on Germany in particular to “finally discuss measures against illegal migration.”

“One thing is clear,” Schallenberg told Germany’s Bild tabloid. “Migration pressure will not decrease in the next few years. Migration is an issue that can bring down governments.” 

More than half a million people applied for asylum in the EU in the first half of this year, an increase of 28% on the same period in 2022, according to figures from the European Union Agency for Asylum. Meanwhile, the number of illegal immigrants caught entering the bloc rose by 18% to 232,350 in the first eight months of 2023, according to the EU’s border agency, Frontex.

Amid this rise, states with formerly relaxed immigration policies have begun to take a tougher stance. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Iceland agreed on Friday to cooperate on increasing deportation flights. In Germany – where illegal entries are projected to reach their highest level this year since 2016, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced last month that his government would “finally deport on a large scale those who have no right to stay in Germany,” although a bill enabling this will need to be approved by parliament.

As migrants poured into Germany this year, Scholz’ support has evaporated. His party, the SPD, was the country’s second-largest political faction until June, when it was overtaken by the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD). The AfD, which has called for strict immigration restrictions since its foundation in 2013, is now polling five points ahead of the SPD, according to an aggregate compiled by Politico.

Some 86% of Germans are worried about migration, up from 67% last year, according to a poll cited by Reuters last month. A survey taken in September found that two-thirds of Germans want refugee admissions limited, and 80% think the government is not deporting enough migrants.

“The issue of deportations is the Achilles heel of the entire asylum and migration system," Schallenberg told Bild. “If we don’t manage to deport people who don’t have the right to reside in the EU, the system will be reduced to absurdity.”

According to the German Interior Ministry, there were around 255,000 people living in Germany at the end of September who were obliged to leave the country, yet around 205,000 could not legally be deported. 

“It is high time,” Schallenberg said, “for Germany to finally discuss measures against illegal migration.”

Increasing deportations is made more difficult by the fact that EU nations must strike bilateral agreements with migrants’ countries of origin to accept their return. Many countries refuse, and to remove this obstacle, Schallenberg recommended that EU leaders “learn to finally use our levers” and threaten to suspend preferential tariffs, visa agreements, and development aid in response.

Greece recommended a similar approach last year, calling on Brussels to impose sanctions on countries that refuse to take their deported citizens.