Member states are pressing to get Morocco and Tunisia onto a list of so-called “safe third countries” on to which to offload people seeking asylum.
The move appears linked to stalled plans for setting up centres in countries rimming the Mediterranean to take in disembarked rescued migrants at sea.
The safe third country concept entails dispatching people, regardless of nationality, back to places where they initially transited through.
It means, for instance, a sub-Saharan African who travelled through Morocco to reach Europe could be sent back to Morocco to have his asylum case heard.
In a letter, seen by EUobserver, the European Commission has tasked the EU support asylum agency (EASO) to help draw up a safe third country list on behalf of the EU states.
The list includes Montenegro, Serbia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Turkey, Tunisia, Morocco, and Ukraine.
Dated early August, the letter asks Easo’s interim executive director Jamil Addou to collect information “relevant for an assessment of whether these countries can be designated as safe third countries at Union level.”
The letter, written by Paraskevi Michou, who earlier this year took over as head of the commission’s migration branch, wants the Easo probe completed before the end of month.