Mass deportations expected as EU official declares majority of migrants not refugees

STOCKHOLM -- Dazzled by an unprecedented wave of migration, Sweden on Thursday put into words an uncomfortable reality for Europe: If the continent isn't going to welcome more than 1 million people a year, it will have to deport large numbers of them to countries plagued by social unrest and abject poverty.

See Full Article

Interior Minister Anders Ygeman said Sweden could send back 60,000-80,000 asylum seekers in the coming years. Even in a country with a long history of immigration, that would be a scale of expulsions unseen before.

"The first step is to ensure voluntary returns," Ygeman told Swedish newspaper Dagens Industri. "But if we don't succeed, we need to have returns by coercion."

The coercive part is where it gets uncomfortable. Packing unwilling migrants, even entire families, onto chartered airplanes bound for the Balkans, the Middle East or Africa evokes images that clash with Europe's humanitarian ideals.

But the sharp rise of people seeking asylum in Europe last year almost certainly will also lead to much higher numbers of rejections and deportations.

European Union officials have urged member countries to quickly send back those who don't qualify for asylum so that Europe's welcome can be focused on those who do, such as people fleeing the war in Syria.

"People who do not have a right to stay in the European Union need to be returned home," said Natasha Bertaud, a spokeswoman for the EU's executive Commission.

"This is a matter of credibility that we do return these people, because you don't want to give the impression of course that Europe is an open door," she said.

EU statistics show most of those rejected come from the Balkans including Albania and Kosovo, some of Europe's poorest countries. Many applicants running away from poverty in West Africa, Pakistan and Bangladesh also are turned away. Even people from unstable countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia can't count on getting asylum unless they can prove they, personally, face grave risks at home.

Frans Timmermans, the Commission's vice-president, told Dutch TV station NOS this week that the majority of people seeking asylum in Europe are not refugees.

"More than half, 60 per cent, should have to return much more quickly. If we start with doing that, it would already make a huge difference," he said.

Sending them back is easier said than done. In 2014, EU nations returned less than 40 per cent of the people who were ordered to be deported.

Sometimes those seeking asylum go into hiding after receiving a negative decision. Sometimes their native country doesn't want them back.

EU countries, including Sweden and Germany, have had some success sending people back to the Balkans on chartered flights. Of the 37,000 who returned from Germany on their own accord last year, all but about 5,000 were from the Balkans.

"It's been more difficult with Iraq and Afghanistan," said Mikael Ribbenvik, director of operations at the Swedish Migration Agency. "The returns have worked during some periods, and not so well during others."

One of the biggest obstacles to sending people back is to obtain travel documents from their home countries. People routinely lose or even destroy their travel papers coming to Europe, creating confusion about where they are from.

"Most countries in the world don't accept someone if cannot be proved that it's one of their citizens," Ribbenvik said.

Sweden has urged the EU and its Frontex border agency to help establish return agreements with the countries of origin.

Frontex's budget for deporting people was significantly increased this year, allowing it to co-ordinate more flights and help countries prepare their own.

Under UN rules, countries are supposed to offer protection to refugees fleeing war and persecution. But some European countries also offer protection to people deemed at risk of torture or the death penalty or who are suffering from an exceptionally serious disease.

Even for those who get a negative decision within months, it can take years before all appeals are exhausted and they are ordered to leave.

Jawad Aref Hashemi, a 43-year-old Afghan who lived in Iran before travelling to Denmark to seek asylum, suggested he won't accept no for an answer.

"If people are sent home, they will protest. How will they send us home? In big cars? We are not animals," he said.

Abdi Xuseen, a 28-year-old Somali who also sought asylum in Denmark, said "people will hide" or go on hunger strikes if they are forced to leave Europe.

Statistics from the Swedish Migration Agency show 127,000 people have been ordered to leave the country since 2010. About 60,000 did so voluntarily, while 26,000 were deported with coercion and 40,000 absconded.

Authorities have little information on the latter group. Some are believed to have left the country, while others remain in Sweden illegally, at risk of being exploited in a black market economy.

"There has to be noticeable consequences for companies that use illegal labour," Ygeman told Dagens Industri. "If there's a decent illegal labour market the incentive to stay in Sweden will be strong."

More than 160,000 people applied for asylum in Sweden last year, the highest number in Europe relative to population size. Ygeman's estimate that 60,000-80,000 of them will have to leave was based on the current rejection rate of about 45 per cent.

Meanwhile, the stream of migrants making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe continues.

Greece's coast guard said 25 people died, including 10 children, when a migrant boat sank Thursday off Samos, an island near the Turkish coast.

Romanian rescuers dropped off 119 African migrants in Italy after recusing them from an inflatable dingy. The migrants were dehydrated and showed signs of hypothermia, the Romanian border police said.

------

Associated Press writers Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark, David Rising in Berlin, and Lorne Cooke in Brussels contributed to this report.



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • An arm of the state should not be forcing lawyers to declare their values

    Canada News CBC News
    Over the past couple of weeks I've become Canada's most notorious law professor. I filed an application requesting the Superior Court of Ontario review the legality and constitutionality of the new requirement imposed by the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) that lawyers and paralegals "demonstrate a personal valuing of diversity, equality, and inclusion. Source
  • Canada Post is scaling back its letters-from-Santa program for kids who write from school

    Canada News CBC News
    Canada Post says Santa won't be sending as many personalized letters to kids this year, though he still wants to make sure he responds to every note he receives. The postal agency says many children write letters to Santa both from home and from school, which gave Santa and his elves a total of 1.6 million notes to reply to last year. Source
  • Hydro hip-hop: listen to two tunes about Ontario hydro bills

    Canada News CTV News
    The Wack MCs have the “Hydro Blues.” “Look at this bill -- am I reading it right?” they rap in a new music video. “If I feed my kids, I gotta shut off my lights?” Source
  • 12 dead in hotel fire in Georgia's Black Sea resort

    World News CTV News
    TBILISI, Georgia -- The Georgian Interior Ministry says 12 people have died in a fire in a hotel in the Black Sea resort city of Batumi. Russia's TASS news agency is quoting the ministry as saying the fire engulfed the Leogrand hotel late Friday evening. Source
  • Canadian charged in Yahoo hacking case to plead guilty in U.S., court records say

    Canada News CBC News
    A Canadian accused by the United States of helping Russian intelligence agents break into email accounts as part of a massive 2014 breach of Yahoo accounts is expected to plead guilty next week, according to court records. Source
  • Notley wins over Calgary business crowd, starting with 'eastern bastards' remark

    Canada News CBC News
    Two years after struggling through a speech in front of an awkwardly silent business crowd, Rachel Notley stood before the Calgary Chamber again on Friday and opened with a joke. "I spent the earlier part of the week out in Ontario — you know, the home of those eastern bastards," the Alberta premier said. Source
  • Starting with 'eastern bastards' remark, Notley wins over Calgary business crowd

    Canada News CBC News
    Two years after struggling through a speech in front of an awkwardly silent business crowd, Rachel Notley stood before the Calgary Chamber again on Friday and opened with a joke. "I spent the earlier part of the week out in Ontario — you know, the home of those eastern bastards," the Alberta premier said. Source
  • Jewish group, residents of Ontario town urge new name for 'Swastika Trail'

    Canada News CTV News
    A major Jewish advocacy group in Canada has stepped up efforts to help some residents of an Ontario town convince local politicians to rename a street currently called Swastika Trail. B'nai Brith Canada started an online petition Thursday calling on Puslinch Township, about 75 kilometres west of Toronto, to change the street name. Source
  • Fraud trial of the 'Muslim Madoff' adjourned after accused fires lawyer: Crown

    Canada News CBC News
    The trial of a Toronto businessman charged with fraud for allegedly pocketing millions in "Shariah-compliant" mortgages has been delayed until next fall — just as it was beginning. The opening day of the trial for Omar Kalair, dubbed the "Muslim Madoff" by some of the homeowners who were allegedly left thousands in the hole after buying into the mortgages marketed to Muslims, got underway earlier this month. Source
  • False killer whale is latest cetacean to die at Vancouver Aquarium

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Aquarium says the false killer whale it rescued off a beach over three years ago has died at the facility. The aquarium says in a statement that Chester's behaviour changed Wednesday and despite intensive veterinary care, he died this morning. Source