European Union refugee talks end with no solutions

Hannah Rogers
June 28, 2018

As previously reported "FACTS", June 28-29 in Brussels will be a meeting of the European Council, where one of the main issues will be the decision of the migration crisis and the improvement of the European system for granting asylum to refugees. Four member countries in eastern Europe refused to take part in the meeting because of demands that they take in more asylum-seekers to ease the burden elsewhere.New Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte presented a plan that argues existing European Union asylum rules are obsolete and "paradoxical."The current rules effectively mean migrants only can apply for asylum in the country where they first arrive, usually Italy or Greece.Conte said his 10-point proposal would be a "paradigm shift" in how Europe approaches migration and that he was "decidedly satisfied" with the outcome of Sunday's meeting."We have given the right direction for the debate underway".

Merkel, however, has acknowledged that "no solution will be reached" on the overall migration issue at either summit. Anti-migrant parties, and governments in Hungary and Italy, have been fomenting public fears of foreigners and have won support doing so. But they can not agree on how to share out those asylum seekers who make it.

The new Italian government has closed its ports to charity ships operating in the Mediterranean, saying the European Union must share the burden of disembarking the hundreds of migrants who are plucked from waters each month, mostly off the Libyan coast.

The plan appears to have fairly broad support in an European Union now bitterly split over immigration policy, although countries have yet to settle on the details.

"That is why there will be bilateral and trilateral agreements, how can we help each other - not always wait for all 28 members but think about what is important to whom", she said.

In answer to comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who said migration flows towards Europe had declined compared with a few years ago, Italy's Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio said Macron's words showed he was out of touch.

He stated this during a joint press conference with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, AFP reports.

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Far-right Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini bluntly told foreign charities on Sunday to stop rescuing migrants off Libya, where one group said 1,000 people were on boats in distress. Proactiva Open Arms tweeted on Sunday that Italy is seeking to have the Libyan coast guard force them back to North Africa.

Italy has accused him of "arrogance" and placed the responsibility for saving migrants in the Mediterranean squarely at the feet of Libya, much of which is lawless.

But another rescue ship, the Lifeline of the German NGO Mission Lifeline, was stranded in the Mediterranean off Malta after both Italy and Malta refused to let it dock with its 234 migrants. Numerous leaders of those countries are on the frontline of the crisis, such as Italy and Greece.

"These rescue ships can forget about reaching Italy", Italy's new firebrand interior minister, Matteo Salvini, said Saturday as he assured his anti-migrant base that he would "crush" the human trafficking business.

Even though new arrivals have dropped, the political consequences of migration pressures are still reverberating around Europe.

Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, which have refused to take in refugees from overstretched countries such as Italy and Greece, boycotted the Brussels meeting.

The meeting was called last week to clear the air before a scheduled full summit on Thursday and Friday.

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