Thursday

13th Dec 2018

Tusk: 'Easy access' to EU is main lure for migrants

  • Tusk (r) says the EU faces millions more potential refugees (Photo: Consillium)

The president of the European Council, Donald Tusk, who represents EU member states, said the ease of getting into Europe is the main pull factor for migrants.

"Let us be clear about one thing. The exceptionally easy access to Europe is one of the main pull factors", Tusk said in a letter on Tuesday (13 October).

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The four-and-a-half-year war in Syria has displaced 7.6 million inside the country and sent over 4 million fleeing to neighbouring countries.

The United Nations, for its part, says developing countries host over 86 percent of the world's refugees.

But Tusk, a former conservative prime minister of Poland, warned that Europe must be ready for millions of new arrivals following the winter months ahead.

"Even if the influx of refugees slows down during winter, we must be ready for spring and the threat of bigger waves flowing to Europe", he said.

He had made similar comments in late September.

According to the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration, just under 600,000 people managed to reach the EU this year, and over 3,100 people are either missing or dead in their attempt to do so.

Addressed to EU leaders ahead of an summit in Brussels at the end of this week, Tusk's letter sets out priority discussion points.

He said talks should narrow in on beefing up external borders and the setting up of an EU-wide border guard system.

On the EU's asylum system under Dublin, which determines who is responsible for processing applications, he said they should discuss "whether to keep it as it is or to look for alternatives."

Tusks also wants to debate the "specific role" of so-called hotspots in Italy and Greece ,where new arrivals are separated before either being turned back or sent on to other EU member states.

The hotspot scheme is part of a larger plan to relocate 160,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers for the next two years.

The scheme had faced stiff opposition from some EU leaders who objected to their distribution into a population of over 500 million.

In the meantime, the first batch of some 20 Eritreans arrived in Sweden from Italy last week. Finland is soon set to receive 150, according to the Finnish Immigration Service.

Turkey will also be a key talking point. It hosts over 2 million Syrian refugees.

Last week, Tusk met with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels to discuss a broader action plan on stemming the flow of people from Turkey into the EU.

The EU wants Turkey to step up surveillance and crack down on people-smuggling gangs. But Turkey is pushing for a 'safe zone' in northern Syria amid Western and Russian airstrikes.

"Turkey is calling on us to support the establishment of a safe zone in northern Syria, whereas Russia - increasingly engaged in Syria - is openly rejecting this idea", said Tusk.

The EU is ready to mobilise up to €1 billion to help Turkey cope with its refugees.

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