EU leaders call for more action to curb flow of irregular migrants from Africa

BRUSSELS, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- Leaders from the 28 member states of the European Union (EU) pressed for more efforts to stem the flows of irregular migrants, in particular from Africa, and to improve return rates.

A two-day EU summit kicked off on Thursday afternoon, with three main tasks on the agenda, namely how to move forward with the migration crisis, seeking solutions to trade-related issues and discussing ties with Russia.

At the first session of the summit, the leaders' discussion focused in particular on external border controls and deals with African countries to reduce the number of illegal migrants.

Hailing the entry into force of the European Border and Coast Guard Regulation on Oct. 6, the EU countries committed themselves to continuing to deploy staff and equipment to the new institution.

In a concluding document of the discussion, the leaders called for "a swift adoption" of a revised Schengen Borders Code to enforce systematic controls on all travelers crossing EU external borders.

Meanwhile, the leaders asked the EU executive body to come up with a proposal for setting up a European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) to allow for advance security checks on visa-exempt travelers and deny them entry where necessary.

Furthermore, the EU leaders pressed for quicker progress from deals with African countries to reduce the number of irregular migrants, increase returns and try to solve the "root causes" of migration.

The central Mediterranean has once again become the main crossing point for illegal migrants from Africa. More than 115,000 people arrived in Italy by boat in the first eight months of 2016, remaining at the same level as in 2014 and 2015, European Council President Donald Tusk told the press after the first day of the summit.

After accessing the so-called "migration compacts" set up between the EU and five African countries, namely Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Ethiopia, the EU leaders agreed to wait until the next summit in December to decide whether to extend it to other countries.

Thanks to the migration deal between the EU and Turkey, the influx of irregular migrants crossing the Aegean Sea to Greece has dropped 98 percent in September compared with last year. Meanwhile, twice as many irregular migrants had already been returned compared to all of 2015, Tusk said.

To further implement the EU-Turkey deal, the leaders called for more efforts to accelerate returns from the Greek islands to Turkey and a swift response to calls for more resources to assist Greece.

As to the controversial relocation and resettlement schemes, divergence among the EU countries persists and member states are urged to quickly implement the existing schemes.

To meet the EU's commitment of relocating 160,000 people before September 2017, its member states will have to take in a further 154,349 people over the next year, which has been described as "mission impossible."

[ Editor: meng ]


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