Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Italy threatens EU budget veto over migration

  • Italy helped rescue over 2,000 people on Monday (Photo: Frontex)

Italy is threatening to veto the EU budget if it doesn't get more help with migration.

Prime minister Matteo Renzi on Tuesday (25 October) said he would block the budget unless countries like Hungary and Slovakia take in more asylum seekers from Greece and Italy.

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“Italy cannot take another year like the one we’ve just had,” he said in an interview with RAI state television.

Over 153,000 people disembarked from north Africa in 2015 to Italy in an effort to seek asylum or find a better future in Europe. Around the same number have reached the country so far this year, according to the UN refugee agency (UNHCR). Some 3,195 died in the attempt.

The Italian coast guard is also coordinating large scale rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

They plucked 5,900 from the sea over the weekend alone with the help from vessels deployed by EU's border guard Frontex and NGOs. Another 2,200 were saved on Monday in 21 rescue missions.

Meanwhile, just under 1,400 people have been relocated from Italy under an EU-wide two year scheme to distribute asylum seekers to other EU states that was launched in September last year.

None have been sent to Hungary, Poland or Slovakia.

Renzi then pointed out that Italy's contribution to the EU budget is about €20 billion.

"If Hungary or Slovakia preach to us about migrants and don't give us a hand, and then want our money, in 2017, when the discussion on the budget starts, let Italy be alongside the government in saying there's no way, absolutely," he was quoted as saying in Italian news agency Ansa.

Renzi had also demanded that the number of people arriving from North Africa slows by early next year.

Italy is one of the main drivers behind EU-led efforts to sort deals with a handful of African states to curb migration flows by the end of the year.

Leaders at a summit in Brussels last week promised to intensify cooperation with governments in Ethiopia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Mali and step up returns and readmission of people not entitled to international protection.

Formal talks with Nigeria have since kicked off to send economic migrants packing from the EU as part of a bigger €60 billion investment package.

Nigerians surpass all other nationalities that arrived by sea to Italy this year, followed by Eritreans and then people from Sudan.

Renzi has in the past voiced frustration over the lack of support from other EU states ahead of a key referendum on Italy's constitutional reform in December.

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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.

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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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