Thursday

23rd Nov 2017

Italy to 'hurt' Europe if no decision on migrants

  • Renzi's threat came ahead of EU talks on Tuesday (Photo: ec.europa.eu)

Italian authorities are ready to implement a secret plan B on migrant arrivals should member states refuse to take in more asylum seekers.

Without disclosing details, prime minister Matteo Renzi on Sunday (14 June) said the plan “would hurt Europe” and requested the European Union set up facilities in Libya to process migrant applications.

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"If Europe chooses solidarity, good. If it doesn't, we have plan B ready. But it would first and foremost hurt Europe," he said in an interview with Corriere della Sera.

Some 57,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to reach Italy this year, where they ask for asylum.

Italy is then supposed to fingerprint and identify each one as, under EU rules known as the Dublin regulation, the EU state where a migrant first enters the bloc is supposed to process the asylum requests.

Renzi said he wants the Dublin system changed.

The issue has become a point of contention with Italy’s immediate neighbours in the north, who have stepped up security along the borders.

Austria, France, and Switzerland (not an EU member state) are sending unprocessed migrants back to Italy.

A standoff between some 200 migrants and authorities recently emerged on the French-Italian border at Ventimiglia.

French police escorted the migrants, including women and children, back to the Italian side of the border where they have refused to move for the past three days, reports AP.

Earlier this month, the regional presidents of Lombardy, Liguria, and Veneto also announced they would no longer house arriving migrants distributed by the government.

Overstretched Italian facilities means many are forced to sleep in the streets.

Renzi’s threats were made just ahead of Tuesday's meeting of interior ministers to discuss a European Commission plan to redistribute 24,000 Eritrean and Syrian asylum seekers arriving in Italy over a two-year period.

The proposal, first announced in April, is intended as an emergency response to the crisis.

But it has been criticised by several member states, including France and Spain, who oppose binding distribution criteria.

The plan, despite hopes from the commission for a quick decision, is unlikely to be voted on by member states until September.

"The biggest difficulty is on criteria, on how to distribute people between member states," an EU diplomat told reporters in Brussels on Friday.

Renzi, for his part, described the small size of the 24,000 figure as “a provocation”.

He said he would discuss setting up centres in Libya and the repatriation of economic migrants with the European Commission and others, including German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Interior minister Angelino Alfano told Sky TG24 that he would ask his counterparts in Luxembourg on Tuesday for “a serious policy on repatriation”.

"I will say with great clarity: Kids, either we do equal distribution of migrants in Europe, or we organise refugee camps in Libya, or we organise a serious policy of repatriation”, he said.

“I cannot reveal our Plan B but if Europe is not supportive, it will find itself dealing with a different Italy. We will not accept a selfish Europe".

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