BRUSSELS, Feb 1 (KUNA) - President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen Wednesday expressed concern over the rising influx of illegal migrants to Europe and called for a common European response to deal with the problem.
"Last year, Frontex reported 330,000 irregular border crossings. This is a 64 percent increase compared to the year before and the highest figure since 2016," she told the European Parliament in Brussels today.
"In parallel, there were 924,000 asylum applications across the European Union. There are without any doubt increasing pressures at our external borders."
She said that every year there are around 300,000 decisions taken by EU Member States to return illegal migrants but only around 70,000 people are actually returned.
"Some of the shortcomings we can act on now. For instance, a return decision that is taken in one Member State should be valid in all Member States. So, if a person with a return decision by Italy is found in France, that person can be directly returned to his or her country of origin. This will become possible now with the Schengen Information System that enters into operation in March," she said.
And the fact is that the majority of those who apply for asylum are not in need of protection. But return rates are at a low of 22 percent, said von der Leyen.
"Migration is a European challenge which must be met with a European response," she said.
Von der Leyen announced that at the extraordinary EU summit in Brussels next week she will propose two separate work strands to tackle illegal migration.
"The legislative process is one and the operational actions we can take already now is the second," she added. (end)