Led by Brincat, EU auditors seek to improve repatriation of irregular migrants

REUTERS/Yves Herman/File Photo

The European Court of Auditors have launched an audit on the EU’s cooperation with third countries on the repatriation of irregular migrants, seeking to determine whether the European Commission’s measures since 2015 have improved cooperation with priority third countries.

The audit is being led by the ECA’s Maltese member, Leo Brincat, who noted that “how to deal best with migration is a pressing issue for the EU and its member states.”

”As the EU’s external auditors, we have recently carried out several audits of the arrangements within the EU on asylum and relocation of migrants. We will now take a deeper look at their return and readmission to third countries,” Brincat maintained.

Every year, around half a million third country nationals are ordered to leave the EU after entering or staying irregularly within the bloc. But on average, only 38% return to their country of origin or the country of transit, an average that drops below 30% for returns outside Europe.

According to the ECA, one of the reasons for these low returns was the difficulty involved in cooperating with countries of origin.

Commission stepping up efforts since 2015

The European Commission published an EU action plan on return in 2015, in which it insisted that the readmission of irregular migrants should be prioritised in the bloc’s dealing with third countries. A year later, it introduced the migration partnership framework to foster better cooperation with targeted priority countries of origin and transit. It launched a renewed action plan on return, with recommendations on how to make readmission more effective, in 2017.

The EU has also concluded 18 legally-binding readmission agreements with third countries, but the ECA noted that they may be reluctant to engage in negotiations, as such agreements can prove to be a source of public hostility.

The Commission thus sought to seek practical cooperation agreements and implement legally non-binding agreements for return and readmission, but in turn, these have drawn criticism over democratic and judicial accountability.

The auditors thus seek to assess the EU’s progress in the past five years in developing a framework for readmission and return, and whether it has been put into practice effectively for priority third countries. Among other things, they will examine the negotiating process of EU readmission agreements and arrangements, how priority countries were identified, the Commission’s support and incentives to third countries to improve readmission cooperation, and the sharing of best practices.

Though there is no clear overview of EU funding for cooperation with third countries on readmission, the auditors identified around 60 projects linked to the issue with a total value of €641 million. They will be focusing on cooperation with the 10 countries of origin with the highest numbers of non-returned irregular migrants – with the exclusion of Syria given the country’s domestic situation – and assess the performance of 20 of the aforementioned projects.