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31st Oct 2020

Four EU states want 'automatic' refugee relocation

  • 'The European Union has not shown sufficient solidarity towards countries of first arrival, notably Italy,' French president Emmanuel Macron said (Photo: SOS Mediterranee)

The interior ministers from France, Germany, Italy, and Malta will meet on Monday (23 September) in Malta to discuss an "automatic" system for the relocation of asylum seekers.

European commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos will also attend the meeting in Malta, as well as the Finnish interior minister, since Finland holds the EU presidency.

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Countries such as Italy, Spain, and Malta have complained repeatedly over the past few years that other EU member states are not yet appropriately dealing with asylum seekers.

The highest number of registered first-time asylum seekers applicants in 2018 per capita was recorded in Cyprus, ahead of Greece, Malta, and Luxembourg, according to the EU asylum agency EASO - while Italy is the 13th country in the list, below France and Germany.

Last week, French president Emmanuel Macron urged the EU to overcome its "ineffective" migration policy, admitting the disproportion of responsibility between EU frontline states and other countries.

"The European Union has not shown sufficient solidarity towards countries of first arrival, notably Italy," said Macron last Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Italy authorised on Sunday the disembarkation of 182 migrants from the Ocean Viking rescue ship, since Malta refused them to disembark in the island because they were rescued outside its territorial waters, according to the NGO SOS Méditerranée.

New proposal

The interior ministers of the four EU countries are expected to discuss how to relocate within Europe those migrant rescued in the Mediterranean sea.

These discussions could also involve Malta, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania, and Spain shortly, the Italian newspapers Repubblica and Stampa reported.

The objective of the meeting is to negotiate a temporary and voluntary agreement, that would prevent member states from negotiating relocation on a case-by-case basis as it has happened until now.

France and Germany have given their green light to the new system, saying they are ready to take in 25 percent of people rescued at sea.

Italy is willing to host up to 10 percent of the rescued migrants since the country has already hosted tens of thousands of new arrivals.

The acting Spanish interior minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska has rejected this new system since he believes that "the response of the European Union must be unique and affecting the entire Mediterranean", reported the Spanish press.

Automatic relocation system

In 2015, the commission proposed "a new automated system to monitor the number of asylum applications received and the number of persons resettled by each member state"

However, the attempt of the EU to impose mandatory quotas of refugees did not work as planned and six member states (Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Romania, and Italy) said the Commission proposal did not comply with the principle of subsidiarity.

Negotiations about the revision of the 'Dublin regulation' began last July in Helsinki, at a meeting of all 28 EU interior ministers, including Italy's former interior minister, Matteo Salvini.

The ministers of foreign affairs of Italy and Malta, Enzo Moavero and Carmelo Abela, sent a joint document to EU officials referring to the complex situation in the Mediterranean sea and seeking emergency solutions.

"Reforming the Dublin regulation is not enough, we need to go further and take care of all migrants," said the statement.

Italian PM Giuseppe Conte said earlier this week that the migration phenomenon must be coordinated at European level.

"We must work as soon as possible to change the Dublin regulation," he said.

France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants

French president Emmanuel Macron is pressing for an automated distribution of rescued migrants at sea - but also stands accused of tightening asylum rules in his own country as a response to the far-right.

'Migration' is now 'protecting European way of life'

The upcoming European Commission has shuffled migration policy into a euphemistic new "Protecting our European Way of Life" European commissioner portfolio, headed by former spokesman Margartis Schinas. Some MEPs are not happy.

Analysis

Will EU keep paying to keep migrants away?

The EU has made deals with several countries, such as Libya, Turkey, and Niger, to keep asylum seekers far away from Europe. Now it is planning to relocate some migrants to Rwanda, in response to the Libya migration crisis.

EU migrant boat plan fails to get extra support

Only seven out of 28 EU states have so far supported a draft plan to disembark and relocate migrants rescued in the central Mediterranean, following a meeting in Luxembourg.

Confusion over Frontex's Greek pushback investigation

In a quick U-turn, EU border agency Frontex says it has now launched an inquiry into allegations it may have blocked potential asylum seekers from reaching the Greek coast, in so-called 'pushbacks'. What form that inquiry will take is unclear.

Frontex refuses to investigate pushbacks, despite EU demand

The European Commission says Frontex, the EU's border agency, has an obligation to investigate allegations that its vessels participated in illegal pushbacks of migrants off the Greek coast. Asked if it would, Frontex said it rejected the allegations.

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Analysis

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