Wednesday

19th Dec 2018

New York mayor attacks EU migration policy

  • Migrants arriving in Italy prefer to seek asylum in northern EU member states (Photo: Ben Philabaum)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday (21 July) said the EU has failed Italy when it comes to asylum seekers and migration.

Speaking at an event at the Vatican on climate change and human trafficking, De Blasio said the EU needs an immigration policy that helps member states cope with the thousands arriving by foot or by sea.

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“I am deeply troubled by the lack of action by the European Union and the way that Italy has been left to fend for itself very unfairly”, he said, reports AP.

He said the EU is not showing solidarity with frontline states like Italy and Greece, where most of the migrants crossing the Mediterranean by boat arrive.

"Europe can't decide to be unified some of the time and ignore important issues at other times”, he said.

His comments follow on the heels of an EU interior ministers' meeting in Brussels on Monday.

Some 150,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean in an effort to find safety and better lives in the EU since the start of the year.

Around 1,900 have died in the attempt with children, including an 11-year old diabetic from Syria this week, among the victims.

EU member states had promised to deliver on a European Commission plan to divide 40,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy over a two-year period, but fell short by almost 8,000.

The commission is to pay member states €6,000 for each relocated asylum seeker, but a handful of countries have rebelled, with Austria and Hungary flat-out refusing to take in anybody.

Spain, along with some other eastern European nations, agreed to significantly lower figures than originally proposed.

Madrid was supposed to take over 4,200 in the commission's original calculus, based on wealth and population size. But it ended up pledging just 1,300. Latvia is taking 200, down from around 500. Poland opted for 1,100 instead of 2,600.

Spain is upset, in part, because it is struggling to manage borders at its enclaves Ceuta and Melilla in northern Morocco.

Spain’s interior Jorge Fernandez compared the relocation plan to “a distribution of flood water between the rooms rather than plugging the leak”.

Poland and Latvia are fearful that Ukraine’s 1.2 million internally displaced people will rush to them for safety if a larger war with Russia breaks out.

Austria says it is already overstretched.

One way ticket

The relocation figures were announced in parallel to plans on how to best boot out all the unwanted migrants and anyone who doesn’t qualify for international protection.

Frontex, the EU’s border agency, will lead efforts to step up returns by helping member states screen people quarantined at centres known as "hotspots".

Hotspots are set up at the request of a member state whenever there is a surge in migrant arrivals.

The Warsaw-based agency, along with other EU agencies, will then be dispatched to “swiftly identify, register and fingerprint migrants”.

Frontex already helps organise joint-return flights when at least two member states are involved. The plan is to reduce it to one member state and to give it more money for the task.

“We will propose for 2016 a higher dedicated budget of €16.2 million to make sure the agency plays a key role in increasing the return of illegal migrants”, said EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos.

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