1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

EU agrees on stricter measures against 'irregular migration'

February 10, 2023

EU leaders want to prevent migrants from seeking asylum in another country in the bloc if they were already rejected in one. But they are not in agreement on building a wall on the EU's external borders.

Tents behind a barbed fence in a refugee camp in Greece
Tents behind a barbed fence in a refugee camp in GreeceImage: DW

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said early Friday that EU leaders agreed tougher measures to tackle "irregular migration." 

"We will act to strengthen our external borders and prevent irregular migration," von der Leyen said after Thursday's EU summit.

The move came after several EU countries called for stricter rules to curb high numbers of asylum requests to the 27-member bloc.

The EU hosts millions of refugees who had fled conflicts in Ukraine, Syria and Afghanistan. But the bloc often deems asylum claims from nationals of relatively safer countries, such as Bangladesh, Turkey and Tunisia, as economic migrants ineligible for asylum. 

What EU leaders agreed on 

Von der Leyen said EU countries wanted to recognize each others' deportation decisions in a bid to increase such expulsions. 

They agreed on a "principle" to prevent migrants from seeking asylum in a different EU country after being rejected in an initial one. 

EU leaders agreed on a set of measures, including initiatives to strengthen protection infrastructure on the EU's external borders.

They called on the Commission "to immediately mobilize substantial EU funds" to reinforce the bloc's external border with "protection capabilities and infrastructure, means of surveillance, including aerial surveillance, and equipment," according to the summit document.

What they did not agree on

The issue of building fences on the EU's borders has been a flashpoint in talks, with von der Leyen previously saying the EU would not pay for such walls.

Before Thursday's summit, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer called for the EU to fund fences on borders with the EU's neighboring countries, like Turkey. 

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said it was important that EU members work together on migration, whether "it's about controls at the external borders, improving infrastructure, or cooperation with countries of origin and transit."

Xavier Bettel, Luxembourg's prime minister, sharply criticized the calls for building such fences.

"It would be a shame if a wall were built in Europe with the European stars on it," he said, adding that for him, Europe stood for the "fall of a wall."

The EU's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said "Fortress Europe" was not the answer and called for offering immigrants legal processes to get in the EU instead. 

"People move because in their countries there is not a future, there is no peace, there is no stability," he said.

fb/jcg (AFP, dpa, Reuters) 

Fact check: Myths human traffickers tell refugees and migrants