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EU should repatriate more economic migrants, France, Germany, Italy say
September 4, 2015 / 3:10 PM / 2 years ago

EU should repatriate more economic migrants, France, Germany, Italy say

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) - Italy, France and Germany pushed on Friday for a European system to repatriate more migrants who fail to qualify for asylum and to improve external border controls, as EU foreign ministers sought a broader response to the bloc's migrant crisis.

In a letter to the European Union's foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, the three governments called for new rules to end a patchwork of national policies that have sowed division among member states.

"A more efficient asylum system ... goes hand in hand with a more efficient repatriation policy of irregular migrants," said the letter seen by Reuters as the foreign ministers met to discuss migration in Luxembourg.

Migrants who come to Europe only to seek jobs are not entitled to asylum and should be sent back according to EU rules but only about a third of them are actually repatriated, the European Commission estimates.

The letter also called on the EU to agree a list of countries considered safe and whose citizens have fewer rights to claim asylum. This should speed up repatriation and free up time and resources to deal with legitimate asylum applications.

A third proposal is to create an "integrated border management system" which could help to identify, fingerprint and register migrants seeking asylum. The European Commission is set to propose next week more money and staff for the EU's border control agency Frontex, as well as the EU safe countries list.

While Europe has been shocked by images of a drowned migrant boy on the Turkish coast and migrants forced from a train in Hungary, it remains divided over how to deal with the refugees from wars in the Middle East and people leaving Africa and Asia to seek work.

Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will propose an expanded scheme next week to relocate asylum-seekers around the EU from Hungary as well as from Greece and Italy according to national quotas, senior EU officials said.

At the meeting in Luxembourg, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto accused countries of "creating unrealistic dreams and hopes in people", a veiled reference to Germany's decision to take more asylum-seekers.

The 28-nation EU has few common rules to handle migrants and Italy says it is being left to deal with the thousands of people arriving by boat across the Mediterranean.

"We should move towards a single asylum application system where asylum no long concerns only the first country of arrival," said Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni.

Responding to the letter to Mogherini, the EU's head of enlargement, Johannes Hahn, said it was "absolutely necessary" to provide EU support to countries dealing with the biggest flow of migrants. "We have to be clear that the European Union has to support those countries particularly affected," Hahn said.

Additional reporting by Tom Korkemeier; editing by David Stamp

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