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EU presses Morocco on migrants after arrivals overwhelm Canary Islands

Oliver Varhelyi, European Commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement with a Moroccan official in Rabat, Tuesday   -  
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The European Union wants to improve cooperation with Morocco for the return of the later's citizens who don't qualify asylum or refugee status in the bloc, the European Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson said Tuesday in Rabat.

"I am here with a mandate to negotiate readmission and visa facilitation, we will see how the discussions go," she said during a press briefing at the beginning of a two-day official visit.

"An ageing Europe needs labour, and irregular arrivals are frightening European citizens (...): For me, having fewer irregular arrivals and sending back those who are not allowed to stay is closely linked to visa facilitation and legal migration," she explained.

In the midst of the migration crisis in the Canary Islands, her first visit to Morocco also aims to "continue discussions" on readmission mechanisms launched by Spanish Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska last week during a visit to Rabat.

Illegal arrivals in the Spanish archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa "have increased by more than 1000%" this year, "it seems that more than half of the migrants are Moroccan and it is important to know how to ensure that they return," the commissioner said.

Johansson also plans to discuss with the Moroccan authorities their "needs" in terms of migration management and the "means necessary for shared benefits".

Since 2018, Morocco has received 343 million euros of European aid on various programs (police training, education, etc.), according to data released Tuesday.

The European Union sees each year between two and three million regular arrivals (workers, students or refugees) from different countries of the world. About half of those who enter legally leave.

Last year, there were about 100,000 expulsion decisions, about a third of which were followed by effective return, mostly to Ukraine and the Balkans, according to figures released Tuesday.

Yvla Johansson, who is leading the reform of the European migration pact, pleads for greater efficiency in the return of illegal migrants to their countries of origin and considers it a priority to obtain "good readmission agreements".

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