EU fails to agree migrant-sharing scheme
European Union ministers have discussed migration as Greece has again become the main gateway to Europe with the United Nations saying there have been 45,600 arrivals this year.
Italy and Malta are trying this week to recruit more EU member states to a migrant relocation programme agreed with France and Germany for migrants rescued at sea.
But most EU member states have refused to back the plan to redistribute migrants off boats in the Mediterranean across the bloc.
Only Ireland, Luxembourg and Portugal offered to join the “fast-track” plan drawn up by Germany, France, Italy and Malta, with failed applicants sent back within four weeks.
“We were seven yesterday, seven this morning and seven this evening. So things haven’t changed much,” said Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg’s migration minister. “Why us, and why no one else?”
The countries would make “pre-declared pledges” on the number of asylum seekers they would accept.
“If we leave all the countries on the EU’s external border, there will never be a common European asylum policy,” said Germany’s conservative interior minister, Horst Seehofer.
“And if there is no common European asylum policy, there is a danger that uncontrolled immigration will once again take place, throughout Europe. We have seen this before and I do not want it to happen again,” he told the media in Luxembourg.
Greece saw the highest number of arrivals in August since the 2016 EU-Turkey agreement greatly reduced sea crossings, according to a report by Finland, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency.
Turkey currently has around 3.5 million Syrian refugees and Ankara regularly calls for more financial support to address the crisis.
Oxfam said more than 13,000 migrants were sheltering at the Moria camp on Lesbos that was supposed to have a capacity of 3,100.
“The situation of children in the Moria camp is particularly worrying,” Oxfam said, adding that many children were unattended.
In 2016, the EU pledged investment of €6 billion in Turkish refugee projects. Brussels says the money has since been delivered while the Turks have asked for more cash.
Spain has received the second-highest number of waterborne migrants this year with almost 30,000, followed by Italy with 8,000, Malta at almost 1,600 and Cyprus with 800, the UN reported.
Cyprus, Greece and Bulgaria jointly reported to the ministerial meeting that the migrant numbers bore “alarming elements of an emerging crisis”.
“Europe cannot be caught unprepared for a second time … The EU will have to consider positively the allocation of further funds to those countries of the broader region of the eastern Mediterranean route affected by immense migratory flows,” the trilateral report said.
Hungary in 2015. Picture credit: Wikimedia