Sweden, which holds the presidency of the EU Council until June, has called to tighten EU visa restrictions for travellers from some specific visa-free countries, amid a surge in asylum seekers.
The conclusion was made in a leaked internal memo and it references an increase in asylum applications from countries that have EU visa agreements, such as Venezuela, as 51,000 asylum applications to the EU were recorded by Venezuelans in 2021, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports.
This shows a significant increase compared to previous years but asylum seekers from Venezuela aren’t the only ones to seek asylum in the EU as asylum seekers from other nations with EU visa arrangements, such as Columbia and Georgia, have also increased.
Currently, Venezuelan citizens, alongside citizens of over 60 third countries, are permitted to visit the Schengen area without having to obtain a visa for stays of a 90-day period.
On the other hand, third country nationals, including Venezuelan citizens, that plan to stay in the Schengen Area for more than 90 days, are required to apply for a specific visa type, which can vary depending on the purpose and duration of the applicant’s stay.
The memo revealed that the EU-Venezuelan visa arrangements could potentially be suspended, citing an increase in asylum fraud and calling most asylum applications from Venezuelans “unfounded”.Venezuelan arrivals to the EU could be facing enhanced monitoring and greater pressure on the authorities to screen individuals that could pose a risk of committing asylum fraud. More than seven million Venezuelans have left the country since 2015, as the country is dealing with a poor economic situation.
The EU Council, which has been under Swedish leadership since the beginning of the year, has suggested introducing tariffs to curb migration, which according to the European Conservative, marks a contrast to the country’s previous policy and shows the growing influence of Swedish Democrats.
“This government is prepared to take responsibility for the Union’s security, establishing order in the area of migration, and to take steps towards a future sustainable migration policy,” the Swedish Democrats’ migration spokesman Ludvig Aspling, MP, told the European Conservative.
The EU leaders are considering using visa permits, trade flows and development aid as leverages to reduce illegal border crossings and speed up the process of returning some asylum seekers.
The EU Border and Coast Agency, Frontex, has revealed that the Central Mediterranean route has received double the number of arrivals in the first two months of the year – a total of 11,951 border crossings. This is 119 per cent more compared to the corresponding period in 2022, and now, the Central Mediterranean route represents two of every five border crossings. The majority of arrivals were coming from Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea and Pakistan.
The Eastern Border also experienced a 145 per cent increase in border crossings, with top nationalities reaching the EU throughout this route being Ukrainian, Iraqi and Eritrean.