Tuesday

26th Oct 2021

France, Italy, and Germany urge 'fair' sharing of asylum seekers

French, German, and Italian foreign ministers are urging a revamp of EU asylum rules amid a surge of people seeking refuge in Europe.

Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni, and France’s Laurent Fabius in a joint letter say a fairer distribution of asylum seekers is needed.

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"The current refugee crisis is putting the European Union and all of its member states to a historic test. Over the past weeks, this crisis has become even more dramatic,” says the letter, addressed to EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini.

They say those in genuine need of international protection must be granted refugee status.

"A more efficient asylum system for persons in need of international protection goes hand-in-hand with a more efficient repatriation policy of irregular migrants at the EU level, with the aim of granting refugee status rapidly and efficiently to those who are genuinely in need of international protection.”

The European Commission over the summer proposed a system to relocate around 40,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy over a two-year period.

EU leaders had little appetite for the proposal’s mandatory quota system and instead ended up short of the target. Both Hungary and Austria refused to take in any and the UK opted out. Denmark is not involved.

The commission plan also called for a permanent relocation system, which can be triggered at times of crisis. Originally slated for the end of the year, it is now set to be unveiled at a meeting of EU justice ministers on 14 September.

“We are determined to deliver on everything that we promised, pledged, and included in our migration agenda of last May”, EU commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas told reporters in Brussels.

The debate on how to handle the crisis is heating up, with a split emerging between western and eastern member states.

On Friday, Prague is hosting a meeting of the Visegrad Group – the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland. The four are expected to reject any further plans by the commission to introduce mandatory quotas on asylum.

But the pressure on member states to come up with a coordinated plan is rising as thousands have come to the EU since the start of the year.

Last week, more than 23,000 landed in Greece. Germany in August registered some 100,000 asylum seekers and is set to receive a total of 800,000 for the entire year.

Many are moving through the Western Balkan route and into Hungary. Others are landing in Italy via the sea route.

The final destination for many Syrians is Germany after Berlin softened it approach, meaning Syrians can get their asylum applications processed in Germany and do not have to return to the first EU member state they reached, as normally required by EU rules.

On Wednesday, many were greeted with open arms at Munich train station as volunteers handed out food and water to the new arrivals.

The gesture is in stark contrast to the Czech police who were pictured writing ID numbers onto the forearms of refugees.

Czech authorities on Wednesday have since released all asylum seekers in response to Germany’s decision to lift the point-of-entry rules for Syrians.

“We reacted to the positions of Hungary and Germany. We consider it ineffective to keep these people in detention centres,” a Czech police spokesperson told media.

The call comes amid images of a small Syrian boy, whose body washed up on the shore of beach in Turkey, also on Wednesday.

The child has been identified as three-year old Aylan Kurdi.

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