The overall rate of actual returns in the EU was 21 percent in 2021, according to Eurostat, the most recent data available.
European Union immigration ministers will meet on Thursday to discuss visa restrictions and improve coordination within the bloc so they can send more people who are not entitled to seek asylum in Europe back to their countries of origin, including Iraq.
Three years after the 27-nation European Union agreed to impose visa restrictions on countries believed to be not cooperating in the repatriation process, Gambia has only been formally sanctioned.
The European Commission proposed similar steps with Iraq, Senegal and Bangladesh, but two EU officials said cooperation with Dhaka on the return of its nationals has improved since then.
However, the overall rate of actual returns in the EU was 21 percent in 2021, according to Eurostat, the most recent data available.
“This is a level that member states consider unacceptably low,” one of the officials said.
Migration is a highly politically sensitive topic in the bloc, with member states preferring to discuss speeding up returns as well as reducing irregular migration in the first place, rather than addressing sharp differences over how to share the task of caring for asylum-seekers arriving in Europe.
About 160,000 arrived across the Mediterranean in 2022, according to United Nations data, in addition to the registration of nearly eight million Ukrainian refugees in Europe.
The ministers meet two weeks before EU leaders meet in Brussels to discuss migration, and are also expected to demand more migrants be sent back.
Pressure from immigration ministers to punish some countries with visa restrictions has previously been challenged by EU foreign and development ministers, or failed due to conflicts of interest in many of the bloc’s countries.
While countries such as Austria and Hungary vigorously protest the reception of illegal immigrants from the Muslim-majority Middle East and North Africa region, Germany is among the countries seeking to open the labor market to much-needed workers from outside the bloc.