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1ST LEAD EU links visa policy to cooperation on migrant returns By Helen Maguire, dpa

By our dpa-correspondent and Europe Online    auf Facebook posten  Auf Twitter posten  
Brussels (dpa) - Countries refusing to take back migrants who are living illegally in the European Union could see difficulties arise in the future for citizens applying for visas to visit the bloc, under new rules proposed Wednesday by the European Commission.

EU member states have been trying to clamp down on illegal migration to the bloc following a surge in migrants and refugees, including many people from conflict-ridden countries such as Syria.

Under international law, countries are obliged to accept their nationals if they have been expelled from another country.

But the EU has had limited success in the past in returning migrants who have arrived illegally or outstayed their permit, in part due to the reluctance of countries to take them back.

On Wednesday, the commission proposed the introduction of a mechanism to trigger stricter visa processing conditions when partner countries fail to cooperate on the readmission of migrants.

People wanting to visit the EU from from such countries could face longer visa processing times or more complicated procedures, higher costs, fewer exemptions for diplomats or greater restrictions on the length of time they can stay in the EU.

The policy will not have an impact on the "basic rights" of travellers to apply for visas and be granted the right to visit the bloc, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos stressed.

The proposal follows a decision by EU leaders last year to use the bloc‘s common visa policy as leverage to facilitate returns - a policy that the bloc began to apply in a joint migration action plan with African countries back in 2015.

Countries including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tunisia and Morocco are already cooperating with the EU on migrant returns, and on Thursday Avramopoulos will meet in Niger with representatives of western African states.

"We know that these countries need the EU. We know that we are the main donors in terms of development," Avramopoulos said.

Wednesday‘s proposals, which are part of a package seeking to streamline and speed up overall visa application procedures, require the approval of the European Parliament and member states to take effect.

Among other things, the commission wants to allow visa submissions up to 6 months before a planned visit, via a fully electronic process. Multiple-entry visas will be made valid for up to five years, while short-term visas will be directly available at external EU borders.

The procedures, which will see the cost of a visa for Europe‘s border-free Schengen area rise by a third to 80 euros (99 dollars), will also include additional security safeguards.


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