Vienna-based new platform to tackle irregular migration

EU and Western Balkan countries on Thursday agreed to create a new coordination platform to tackle irregular migration. In view of the increasing number of migrants again, the states along the Balkan route want to intensify their cooperation to combat illegal immigration again.

A ministerial meeting was organised by Austria in the country’s capital Vienna with participants from 20 countries to discuss combating irregular migration along the Eastern Mediterranean and the related Western Balkan route. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer and EU Commission VP Margaritis Schinas were among the attendees.

The measures between the EU and the countries of the Western Balkans are to be coordinated via a new facility, said Austrian Interior Minister Karl Nehammer. In addition to border guards, this will also include options for returning people without the right to stay and faster asylum procedures.

The German minister emphasized the importance of the planned new EU asylum policy for the coming decades. Germany wants to push ahead with the EU Commission's proposals expected for September.

"It doesn't work well," says Seehofer about the current situation. New ways of legal labor immigration would also have to be found. A central goal is closer cooperation with countries of origin in order to combat the reasons for flight and to expand the possibilities of return.

EU Commission Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, responsible for migration, said the EU had learned the lessons from the 2015 migration crisis. "Europe must not fail a second time." In his concluding remarks, Schinas underlined the importance of creating a new coordination platform which will be based in Vienna.

“As Minister Seehofer also said that this should not be seen as yet another administrative structure but rather as a flexible operational tool that will align priorities, needs and actions,” he said. “So, instead of adding yet another layer we’ll bring together all the existing layers into more effective systems,” he added.

According to the EU border protection agency Frontex in June, irregular crossings across the Eastern Mediterranean - i.e. via Turkey and Greece - were detected in May 1250. That was eight times as many as in April. Seehofer praised the fact that Poland sent 100 police officers to Greece during the crisis in March, when immigrants tried to forcefully cross the Evros border river on the Turkish-Greek border.

More on this subject: Migration crisis

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