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Govts to step up expulsions of migrants

By Reuters in Luxembourg (China Daily) Updated: 2015-10-10 08:12

European Union governments agreed on Thursday to step up deportations of illegal immigrants and discussed creating an EU border force, among other measures, to cope with hundreds of thousands fleeing Syria or other countries.

Underlining the havoc brought by chaotic mass treks across Europe's open borders in recent months, the German state of Bavaria threatened to break ranks with Berlin and send back to Austria any migrants who cross its alpine frontier.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose welcome to refugees has taken a toll on her ratings, insists she will not shut the door. Her deputy said there could be no pulling up of "drawbridges". Austria's interior minister warned of possible border riots.

The dispute between Vienna and one of Germany's richest regions, which said more than 200,000 migrants entered from Austria in a single month, helps explain Merkel's vocal support this week for the expulsion of those not fleeing for their lives and for tighter controls on who enters Europe across the Mediterranean.

A policy document approved by EU interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg called on states to ensure that more of those ordered to leave actually go. Some 470,000 expulsion orders were issued last year, but less than 40 percent were enforced.

Ministers declined to put figures on future deportations.

"Increased return rates should act as a deterrent to irregular migration," read the conclusions, which also included approval of detention for those who may hide before expulsion and called for more "leverage" to be exercised on African and other poor states, including via aid budgets, to make them accept the return of their citizens who are refused entry to Europe.

"Returns are always tough," German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere told reporters. "But we can only offer space and support to refugees in need of protection if those who don't need protection don't come or are quickly returned."

Later, interior ministers were joined by foreign ministers from the EU, Balkan states, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon to review broader efforts to stem the flow of refugees and economic migrants from the Middle East through Greece and the Balkans.

"It's joining forces to tackle an issue that is going to be very difficult to solve," said EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

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