Fortress Europe: EU Seeks to Reinforce Morocco’s Role in the Bloc’s ‚Externalized‘ Border

Written by | Thursday, December 3rd, 2020

The European Union wants to improve cooperation with Morocco on the return of illegal migrants from the bloc is also looking into possible visa facilitation, EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said on Tuesday (1 December). “I have a mandate to sit down to negotiate readmission and visa facilitation,” she told reporters in Rabat at the start of a two-day visit to the North African country. “The EU needs migration. We are an ageing society, we need migrants, but… European citizens are a bit afraid of irregular arrivals,” Johansson said. “To have fewer irregular arrivals and to return those who are not able to stay, that’s closely linked to the visa facilitation and legal pathways.”
The EU’s recent diplomatic efforts in the Maghreb region have been centred on the bloc‘s fight against irregular migration. Spain’s Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska, who met his Moroccan counterpart in November, called for the resumption of deportations, suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic. Spain’s government is stepping up its response amid a surge in the number of migrants travelling to the Canary Islands that have received 20,000 migrants and refugees this year, up from 2,557 last year. “It’s an acute situation in the Canary Islands right now,” Johansson said. “Half of the migrants that have come seem to be Moroccan citizens.” The EU has earmarked 343 million euros for migration management in Morocco since 2018, including education programmes and police training. “We have a good cooperation (with Morocco) when it comes to migration, both on fighting the smugglers and on returns, but there is still room for improvement,” the EU commissioner said.
Meanwhile, a recent study published by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) illustrates the different approaches that the EU and Morocco have on the issue of return including the link between migration, unemployment and development. The working paper titled ‚Civil Society Input on EU-Africa Cooperation on Return, Readmission and Reintegration: The Case of Morocco‘ also suggests that Morocco should accept third country nationals who have transited through Morocco and urges the EU to „review the forced return policy, the failure of which explains why only 38% of migrants ordered to leave the EU actually return to their country of origin and why 31% of migrants deported to the northern region of Morocco intend to re-emigrate.“ The ECRE study also recommends the EU to reactivate the Cotonou agreements and in particular Article 13 on readmission. „There is unanimity in Morocco to consider as unjustified the return to Morocco of migrants presumed to have passed through the country, instead of returning them to their countries of origin through European countries,“ it says, adding that both Morocco and EU member states remain „incapable of controlling all of its borders and cannot, moreover, bear the costs of repatriating these migrants to their countries of origin.“

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