VILNIUS, LITHUANIA (AP) – Ministers from European Union (EU) nations under pressure from unauthorised border crossings asked on Friday for more action to protect the bloc’s external borders as well as for rules to return migrants to their homelands or where they started their journeys.
Interior ministers from EU countries including Greece, Poland, Italy, Austria and France – which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency – as well as non-aligned Switzerland and Norway attended a border security conference in Lithuania’s capital of Vilnius.
European Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson and the heads of European security bodies like Europol and Frontex, the EU’s border agency, also joined the talks.
The ministers described the influx of thousands of migrants as dramatic and urged swift actions, including reinforcing the EU’s borders and cracking down on people smugglers to protect both EU citizens and the lives of migrants and refugees from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who undertake hazardous journeys to reach Europe.
“We must protect our borders from aggression, and we need to protect our people,” Johansson told more than 30 officials at the Conference on Border Management.
Doing that, she said, requires stopping people who are fleeing poverty and conflicts in their home countries from starting out on dangerous migration routes. But she also stressed the need for a new European system for returning migrants to their homelands if they have no permission to stay in the EU.
“We have to prevent people from departing on smuggling routes and to swiftly return people to the country of origin when they have no right to stay. We can do much more on returns if we establish a European return system. But I need your support to do that,” Johansson told the participants.
She said she will discuss the plan in more details at a meeting in France next month.