Friday

22nd Nov 2019

Italian ports left alone to handle EU migrants

  • EU showed little interest in burden sharing with Italy (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

EU countries have declined to help Italy by opening their ports to migrants, but aim to expel more people and impose “rules” on NGO rescues.

"We do not support the so-called regionalisation of the rescue operations," German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere said at an informal EU meeting in Estonia on Thursday (6 July).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 year's of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Stephanus Block, the Dutch security minister, said: “Just opening more ports will not solve the problem”.

Theo Francken, a Belgian state secretary, joked: “I don’t think we’re going to open Belgian ports. No”.

The EU talks took place amid a surge in people coming via Libya to Italy and amid near-record migrant fatality rates in the central Mediterranean.

Italy had called for solidarity, but its interior minister, Marco Minniti, said on Thursday that the ports proposal had met with “difficult opposition”.

Estonia, which holds the EU presidency, did not mention ports in its communique on the meeting.

It said the EU and Libya should do more to stop people from coming. It also said there should be “rapid returns” of economic migrants from Italy and that the EU should be “using all possible levers and incentives” to clinch readmission deals in Africa.

It said NGO rescues should take place “within a set of clear rules” amid warnings on “pull factors” for migrants.

The European Commission on Wednesday proposed to resettle 37,000 refugees from Africa to ease the burden on Italy, but the Estonian statement made little mention of that.

It also made little mention of Commission quotas for relocating 160,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece.

“Returns policy is … the key word in the migration crisis. If we can send people back this will be the first and most important preventative measure, so that they understand there is no reason to come here,” Estonian interior minister, Anders Anvelt, said.

“Illegal migration and also economic migration must be stopped,” he said in Tallinn.

The EU migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, said Thursday’s conclusion was that “we have to do more to improve implementation of what has already been agreed”.

He was among the few who praised the work of NGO rescue boats.

Morgan Johanson, Sweden’s migration minister, said: “There may be a limit where cooperation between these voluntary organisations and human traffickers has gone as far as human trafficking is helped”.

"It is necessary to raise the awareness of NGOs that they … do not promote illegal immigration,” Spanish interior minister Juan Ignacio Zoido said.

Italy is currently drafting the NGO rules, which will be examined by the EU before it gives its nod.

Germany’s De Maiziere also spoke critically of NGO activity.

“If transponders [boat sensors] are deliberately turned off [by NGOs] in order to obscure the location, then that does not arouse confidence,” he said.

Opinion

Italy's action against NGOs is wrong

With the code of conduct Italian authorities are trying to impose on NGOs that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, people would be forced to endure additional days at sea while states tussle over which port to send them too.

Agenda

Trump, Ukraine and NGO sea rescues This WEEK

The US president will be back in Europe for France's Bastille Day, while the EU and Ukraine will hold a summit in Kiev, and MEPs will discuss migrant rescue operations in the Mediterranean.

News in Brief

  1. EU parliament votes on new commission next week
  2. Berlusconi wants Europe to be a military global power
  3. Orban ordered to apologise over 'misleading' Soros survey
  4. EPP to decide on expelling Fidesz by end of January
  5. Rowdy anti-corruption protest in Malta
  6. Ambassador: Trump ordered Ukraine election meddling
  7. EU links Libyan government to human trafficking
  8. Greek PM on migration: 'Greece has reached its limits'

Opinion

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  3. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  5. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  6. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  7. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  9. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021

Latest News

  1. EPP congress pledges 'moderate' climate solution
  2. EPP wants to re-open accession talks with Balkans
  3. New EU financial instruments needed
  4. Binding measures to expand gender balance
  5. Watershed moment for rule of law in Hong Kong
  6. EU Africa envoy: Europe needs to look beyond migration
  7. New calls for Muscat to resign over journalist's murder
  8. Tusk pledges 'fight' for EU values as new EPP president

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us