Press TV, Brussels
The EU plans to deport a record number of asylum seekers in 2023 while applying no limit on the number of Ukrainian refugees who wish to enter the 27-country bloc.
Rights groups insist the EU has a legal responsibility to treat all refugees equally regardless of their ethnicity. Jerome Hughes reports from Brussels:
Already in 2023, 30 refugees have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea as they attempted to reach the EU, according to figures from the United Nations.
The EU's border and coastguard agency, Frontex, has in the past been lambasted for pushing back unsafe boats, resulting in deaths. On Thursday, the new head of the agency vowed to end this practice.
According to OLAF, the EU's anti-fraud office, at least 2000 refugees drowned in the Aegean Sea during 2020 and 2021 as they were pushed back from the EU coastline by Frontex. The agency prevented at least 40,000 asylum seekers from reaching the EU, which blatantly breaks international law.
In just over ten months, the EU has welcomed more than four million Ukrainian refugees. They are afforded all the same rights as EU citizens. However, if you're from a different part of the world, torn up by Western powers, it's a different story. We visited a shelter for Afghans in Brussels.
There are no such problems for Ukrainians. Of course, that's to be welcomed but rights groups are asking, why the discrimination? EU home affairs ministers will meet in Stockholm, Sweden next Thursday to agree on a more effective strategy to deport asylum seekers who don't meet refugee status criteria.
Campaigners point out there are no plans to adopt a similar policy for refugees arriving here from Western Ukraine, arguably a relatively safe region.