Brussels - The European Union said Wednesday that it is planning talks with Nigeria to arrange for the "rapid and effective" return of Nigerian migrants refused entry to an overwhelmed EU.
The European Commission, the EU executive, is seeking readmission agreements with Nigeria and several other countries that are major sources of economic migrants who fail to qualify as refugees fleeing war or persecution.
"The European Commission has just proposed opening negotiations with Nigeria on a readmission agreement," Commission spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told a press conference.
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"This agreement aims to ensure a rapid and effective process for identifying and returning Nigerian nationals who do not have the right to stay in the European Union."
Such an agreement would respect the rights of Nigerians under international law, she added.
More than a million migrants, many of them Syrians fleeing the brutal civil war, came to the EU in 2015, with the majority landing in Greece via Turkey before making their way north to Germany and other wealthy countries.
The International Organization for Migration said 22,000 Nigerians entered Europe by sea last year, second in Africa to Eritrea, which saw 39,000 of its nationals enter the EU.
The Commission said that less than 40 percent of irregular migrants are actually sent back to their countries of origin, mainly because of a lack of cooperation with their governments.
At a summit in Malta last November, EU leaders pressed their African counterparts to do more to keep their nationals at home in return for a 1.8 billion euro emergency trust fund for Africa to boost economic development.
Confronted with its biggest migration crisis since World War II, the EU has struck a deal with Turkey to stem the flow of migrants through Turkish territory and arrange for the return of those refused asylum in Europe.