Inundated with half a million asylum seekers already this year, Europe is sharpening its latest message to would-be new arrivals: Don’t come.
Security ministers from the European Union’s 28 countries agreed Thursday to step up deportations of people deemed to be “economic migrants” seeking a better life rather than refugees fleeing war and persecution. The ministers also decided to beef up the EU’s border agency, Frontex, and to create a dedicated deportation office within it.
The measures, along with other moves in recent days, signal Europe’s shift from merely coping with the hundreds of migrants who keep arriving on its shores daily to discouraging others who would follow in their footsteps.
Speeding up deportations “should act as a deterrent,” the security ministers said in a joint statement Thursday following a meeting in Luxembourg. Confining unsuccessful asylum applicants to detention centers until they could be shipped back to their home countries is a “legitimate measure of last resort,” the ministers added.
“We need to see Europe upping its game,” British Home Secretary Theresa May said.
Just last month, the same group of ministers met in an emergency session to figure out how to distribute refugees equitably across Europe as the continent confronted its biggest migration crisis in more than half a century. Since then, the focus has turned markedly toward stanching the tide of arrivals, amid warnings from human rights groups against establishing “Fortress Europe.”