European commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson is hopeful to reach EU agreement on migration | Photo: EPA / STEPHANIE LECOCQ
European commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson is hopeful to reach EU agreement on migration | Photo: EPA / STEPHANIE LECOCQ

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson has said in an interview that erecting walls cannot be a sustainable solution to the migration issue. She urged that instead there should be a greater focus on repatriation.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said that shifting the focus of EU migration policies to repatriation would help disincentivize irregular arrivals in Europe.

Johansson made the statement in a recent interview with news agencies gathered in the European Newsroom (ENR) project ahead of a special European Council summit next week, which will focus on migration following last year's record jump in irregular crossings at the EU's external borders.

Repatriation and deportation

The commissioner noted that while there had been a constant increase in people arriving in the EU, that hike was largely not due to "war or persecution."

She added that those arriving in the EU mostly came from countries such as Turkey, Georgia, and Bangladesh, which are countries of origin with typically low level of protection granted in Europe. 

When migrants who do not have the right to international protection have to return to their countries of origin, unauthorised flows from these countries decrease to a significant extent, she noted.

She said that this is why EU member states should primarily focus on protecting their borders in the first place and also shift their attention to deportation initiatives.

Johansson cited the EU's help to Bosnia-Herzegovina as a success story: with the repatriation of scores of migrants — both voluntary and forced — immediate results could be seen in Sarajevo and beyond, she said. 

Read more: EU migration ministers reach consensus over returning irregular migrants

EU should 'not fund walls' on principle

Johansson stressed building walls around the bloc's external border was not a sustainable solution, adding that the EU will not fund the building of such structures. However, she added that the EU could not stop walls from being built either.

She said that "there is too much attention" paid to the issue of such border fortification, saying that walls carry a "symbolic" value but that they are not very useful in practice.

According to the EU commissioner there are other priorities for the EU to spend its funds, highlighting that she has a budget of six billion euros to spend on all EU nations over a six-year period.

Read more: EU interior ministers balance migrant rights and strong borders

Johansson 'optimistic' on delivering EU migration pact 

Johansson said she was "optimistic" about the adoption of the EU Pact on Migration and Asylum by the end of her mandate, which would address many of the discrepancies between member states on managing migration. 

The commissioner said that the speed of migrant relocations within the bloc was increasing, giving her hope on achieving the long-term objective of translating the experience gained in managing this solidarity mechanism into regulation under the pact.

However, she also noted that it will take years for any such mechanism to be fully implemented.

Divisions between EU member states on managing the difficult balance between showing solidarity to refugee and taking responsibility in migration management meanwhile continue.

Read more: EU states look to strengthen migration management across the bloc


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