EU failing to cooperate with outside countries on migrant returns - European Court of Auditors

An audit report headed by Leo Brincat finds that less than one in five migrants actually return to their home countries outside the EU

A group of migrants were returned back to their country of origin after failing to qualify for asylum (Photo: DOI - Omar Camilleri)
A group of migrants were returned back to their country of origin after failing to qualify for asylum (Photo: DOI - Omar Camilleri)

The EU's cooperation with non-EU countries has been inefficient in ensuring that irregular migrants safely return to their home countries, according to a new report published by the European Court of Auditors (ECA).

Half a million non-EU citizens are ordered to leave the EU every year because they had entered the bloc, or were staying in it, without authorisation. However, a new audit report indicates that less than one in five irregular migrants actually return to their own countries outside Europe. 

Former environment minister Leo Brincat, now a member of the ECA, was responsible for the report.

"The current EU returns system suffers greatly from inefficiencies that lead to the opposite of the intended effect: encouraging, rather than discouraging, illegal migration," Brincat said.

A contributing factor to the low number of returning migrants is the difficulty of cooperating with migrants' countries of origin. In this regard, the EU has concluded 18 legally binding readmission agreements, while formally opening discussions with six other countries.

The ECA adds that negotiations of EU readmission agreements are often jeopardised by persistent sticking points, namely the "third country national" clause which states that a person who does not hold the nationality of either party in the readmission agreement may still be readmitted under that agreement if they hold specific ties or previous transit through one of the countries in the agreement.

Another weakness highlighted is the lack of synergy within the EU itself, as the EU has not always "spoken with one voice" to its non-EU countries.

While the European Commission is reported to have made effective use of financial assistance towards projects supporting reintegration and development, it has struggled to use other policies that provide support for negotiations.

Despite having several tools at the EU's disposal, the ECA identified tangible results in only one are, namely the EU visa policy. Its revised provisions can be helpful in encouraging non-EU countries to cooperate on readmissions.