British interior minister Theresa May on Thursday said that the EU must speed up deportation of economic migrants and “crack down” on abuse of its asylum system as ministers met to discuss Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis.
In a sign of the European Union’s tougher stance, May said her colleagues had to move on from fraught discussions about relocating refugees around the EU and instead talk about sending “economic migrants” back to their country of origin.
“We need to ensure that we break the link between people making a dangerous journey to Europe and being able to stay in Europe,” May told reporters as she arrived for the talks in Luxembourg.
“That’s why the UK has always argued that we should be sending economic migrants back to their countries of origin, it’s why we need to crack down on people abusing our asylum system,” she said.
May added: “The UK has a good record in this area, we need to see Europe upping its game and we stand ready to support that.”
May and her colleagues will debate draft proposals to increase the ability of member states to speed up returns of migrants seeking jobs rather than fleeing wars.
The proposals call for both voluntary departures and forced deportations in cooperation with their countries of origin.
May defended Britain’s policy of taking genuine refugees direct from camps in countries bordering Syria, instead of participating in an EU-wide scheme to relocate refugees from the overstretched frontline states of Greece and Italy.
Europe has seen more than 600,000 illegal arrivals this year as people flee conflict in Syria and other countries, while and more than 3,000 people have died while making the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
Luxembourg minister Jean Asselborn -- whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU -- said the issue of returning failed asylum seekers to their countries of origin was “important”.
He said the issue would be addressed at a summit of EU and African leaders in the Maltese capital Valetta in November “so that we can concretise returns.”