HELSINKI Finland said on Wednesday it would push the European Union to step up efforts to curb illegal migration by negotiating agreements with Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia.
European leaders are due at a summit on Thursday to discuss results from their recent migration compacts with five African countries - Niger, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal and Ethiopia.
In exchange for financial support, the EU requires those countries to impose tighter border controls and to take back illegal migrants.
Finnish Prime Minister Juha Sipila said the new approach seemed to be bearing fruit and the EU should extend the approach to other countries with a focus on improving return rates.
"There is support for this approach in general from other member states. I'm going to raise this idea (regarding Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan) at the summit," he told Reuters after a parliament briefing.
While migrants reaching Greece from Turkey have dropped after a deal with Ankara, arrivals in Italy from Africa are increasing so far this year. Italy received 154,000 migrants last year and this year's figure is likely to be higher.
Finland received 32,500 asylum seekers last year, most of them from Iraq. The number has dropped to around 5,500 this year following tightened immigration policies.
(Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl and Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)