VILNIUS – The European Union' support to third countries must be linked to their cooperation on the return of their citizens trying to enter the EU illegally, Lithuania's deputy interior minister says as he's attending a meeting of EU home affairs ministers in Sweden on Thursday.
"The EU needs a strong common stance on this issue as support and facilitation provided to third countries in various policy areas must be directly linked to their cooperation on readmission. Finally, to improve return rates, we need effective measures - both incentives and restrictions – migrants," Arnoldas Abramavicius was quoted as saying in the ministry's statement.
He also called for a change in the EU's legal framework on migration issues.
Data from the European Commission shows that only 21 percent of the 340,500 orders to return migrants to their countries of origin were implemented in 2021.
To ensure a successful return practice, first of all, a proper EU legal framework is needed, the Lithuanian vice minister said. Secondly, all available instruments and leverage need to be used to encourage third countries to accept their nationals back.
In Stockholm, Abramavicius also underlined the need to continue EU-level efforts to adapt the EU legal framework to today's migration challenges.
"We needed a proper EU legal framework yesterday already to counter the instrumentalization of migration used against member states. We hope that the Swedish Presidency will continue its efforts in the negotiations with the European Parliament on amendments to the Schengen Borders Code. Our priority is to maintain the elements agreed in the Council, including the definition of instrumentalization, the reference to fixed infrastructure, the development of standards for border surveillance," Abramavicius said.
As more than 4,200 irregular migrants entered Lithuania illegally in 2021, the country looked for ways to return them to their home countries. The country provides financial incentives to migrants and held negotiations with Iraq on the readmission of its citizens.
In 2021, Lithuania voluntarily returned one in four foreigners to their countries of origin, i.e. more than 1,000 people, according to data from the Interior Ministry, noting that Lithuania's voluntary return rate is one of the best in the EU.