Belgium, Sweden want tougher powers to expel irregular migrantsWed, 18 Oct 2023 15:06:59 GMT

The Belgian and Swedish prime ministers on Wednesday called for better border controls and more coordinated powers in the European Union to expel irregular migrants, after an attack in Brussels left two people dead. Belgium and Sweden were left reeling this week after a Tunisian, who was staying illegally in Belgium after his asylum claim was refused, gunned down two Swedish football fans and injured a third on Monday in central Brussels.The man was identified in media reports as 45-year-old Tunisian migrant Abdessalem Lassoued. Belgian police  shot him dead on Tuesday.Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo and Swedish premier Ulf Kristersson paid tribute to the two Swedes by placing wreaths and a Swedish football scarf and shirt at the site where they were killed.Kristersson thanked De Croo for his support, while the Belgian premier vowed Sweden “can always count on us” during a press conference in front of the building where the attack happened.The two leaders also urged coordinated migrant return policies in the European Union, as the bloc is currently working on an overhaul of Europe’s migration rules.The attack brought greater urgency to the issue after it came to light that the gunman had applied for asylum in Belgium in 2019, but had been refused in 2020.Authorities tried to track him down to issue him with a demand to leave but he could not be located.”The European migration pact should stand for better border controls, but also for a coordinated European return policy,” De Croo said.”We need to be able to protect our borders. We need to know who is in Sweden. Are they here legally or illegally? If they are not here in a legal way, they are obliged to leave the country. We need to protect our European borders,” Kristersson said.The two men were joined by EU chief Ursula von der Leyen, who said Brussels wanted to bring in tougher rules on returns.Currently, the rules say it is up to member states whether they want to force someone back to their country, but Brussels wants to make it mandatory for all countries to return people staying illegally.”We must urgently change this,” von der Leyen said.The EU’s 27 member states made “approximately 400,000 decisions per year on returns in the European Union and so far this year we have returned approximately 65,000,” home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, a Swede, said later Wednesday.