“Safe third countries”: Great Britain supports the initiative of 15 European countries

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak welcomed Tuesday in Vienna that “more and more” European states want to designate “safe third countries” for migrants, like the agreement recently signed between his country and Rwanda. I “am delighted that 15 European countries have now united” to demand that the European Commission designate “safe third countries” capable of welcoming migrants, he declared at a press conference.

“We must carry out returns to safe third countries”

“It is increasingly clear that many countries now agree that this is the approach that is required,” he added, emphasizing his agreement with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on the subject. The latter deplored that in the European Union (EU), the road was “still long” to convince the entire bloc. “The status quo will not solve the problem,” added Rishi Sunak. “We must carry out referrals to safe third countries, like the United Kingdom’s pioneering program in Rwanda,” he insisted.

Last week, fifteen EU member countries – but neither France, Germany nor Spain – urged the Commission in a letter to transfer migrants to third countries, also citing the agreement as an example recently concluded by Italy with Albania. They also demand that people rejected from asylum be sent to these countries, seeking a reform of European law, which provides that a migrant can be transferred to a third country only if he has a sufficient “link” with him.

In Austria, the nationalist FPÖ party is clearly the winner

These proposals come a few weeks before the European elections for which polls predict a surge in far-right parties. In Austria, the nationalist FPÖ party is clearly the winner, ahead of Karl Nehammer’s Conservative Party, which is struggling in voting intentions. Austria, which along with Denmark, Italy and Greece is one of the signatory countries advocating the designation of “safe countries”, is one of the EU states receiving the most asylum applications compared to the number of its inhabitants (9 million).

They reached 1.14 million in 2023 in the EU, their highest level since 2016, according to the European Asylum Agency. Last month, the British government agreed a deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda.

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