Kozlovskis: EU needs to talk about sending failed asylum seekers back

Latvia's interior minister Rihards Kozlovskis faced the prospect of chairing a key EU meeting yesterday as the 28-member bloc struggles to deal with the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean caused by thousands of people feeling warzones in North Africa and the Middle East.

"First of all we need to do our best to prevent more people dying in the sea," he said.

Asked if Latvia was opposed to taking any refugees, Kozlovskis replied: "Latvia as the presidency will do our best to help the frontline member states and that doesn't mean Latvia won;t participate in this program but today I think we will have quite tough discussions because we have a very different point of view from different countries."

"I'm confident we will find a solution to help our frontline member states," he repeated.

However the minister was slightly more expansive talking in Latvian in the lobby of the building where Tuesday's meeting is taking place and suggested the discussion should be broadened to include the return of refugees to the countries from which they came.

"Today it's foreseen that we'll talk not just about the quota system but also we'll talk about what I think is a very important subject, return and readmission politics as we know that only 39 percent of people who qualify, or rather, who don't qualify for asylum, return to their countries of origin... this is one of the questions we can work on," Kozlovskis said.

Asked if the meeting would make any decisions on proposed quotas, he said the meeting would first of all operate on a "voluntary basis" with countries saying what numbers they might be prepared to take and what other forms of help could be offered.

The meeting would also discuss the fight against terrorism and the prevention of terrorist plots, the minister said.

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