Thursday

22nd Feb 2018

Tusk: 'Wave of migrants too big not to be stopped'

  • 'Access to Europe is too easy,' Tusk said. (Photo: Consillium)

The current influx of migrants is "too big not to stop them," European Council president Donald Tusk has said. He proposed that irregular migrants are detained for up to 18 months to check their identity.

In an interview with six European newspapers, Tusk said there is "no majority" in Europe for plans to relocate asylum seekers and that the priority should be the protection of Schengen's external borders.

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The scheme to relocate 160,000 refugees from Italy and Greece has been pushed by Tusk's EU Commission counterpart, Jean-Claude Juncker, and by Germany's Angela Merkel. So far, just a few dozen people have been relocated.

"I am convinced there is no majority in the EU for such a system," Tusk said, adding that "this time, central Europe is not the only problem."

"Let's avoid hypocrisy: it is not a question of international solidarity anymore, but a problem of European capacities. Europeans would be less reluctant if the EU's external border was really under control," he said.

"Today access to Europe is, simply speaking, too easy,” he added.

Tusk, who chairs the summits of EU leaders, asked them to "change [their] mindset" and covertly took on Merkel.

"Some [leaders] say the wave of migrants is too big to stop them. That is dangerous," he said.

"This wave of migrants is too big not to stop them," he said, adding that nobody is ready "to absorb these high numbers, Germany included."

Effective controls

He noted that debate on migration has slipped out of the hands of "politicians or intellectuals or commentators" and has gone "really public because the fear and uncertainty is so genuine.”

He also reiterated that the key is border control.

"Every country must respect and apply the Schengen Borders Code, including the rule that asylum requests be filed in the country of arrival, for example Greece, and not somewhere else," Tusk said.

"It is often said that we must be open to Syrian refugees. But these are only 30 percent of the inflow. Seventy percent are economic migrants. Also for this reason we need more effective controls," Tusk noted.

Controls are not only a matter of stemming the flow, but also a question of security, he said, floating the idea that the EU should be ready to retain illegal migrants as long as it can to check them.

"If you want to screen migrants and refugees, you need more time than only one minute to fingerprint," he noted, adding that international and European law allow up to 18 months "for the screening we need.”

EU agrees on Schengen checks for all

EU "collective reaction must be ruthless," said French minister, as controls are to be stepped up for migrants and EU nationals.

Libya return demand triggers reintegration headaches

The UN migration agency (IOM) had planned to help return and reintegrate 5,000 people from Libya to their home countries, but ended up aiding 20,000 in 2017. The extra demand has piled on the pressure.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

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