European Union migration row to relegate Brexit to footnote at Brussels summit

Lester Mason
June 25, 2018

Italy's far-right 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.

The U.N.'s refugee agency forecasts that around 80,000 people will arrive to Europe by sea in 2018 if current trends continue - but the EU's political turmoil over the topic has soared.

Ironically, the tough talk comes as migrant entries drop significantly.

She opposes the idea by the CSU, which will face the anti-immigration AfD party in Bavarian elections in October, because it would mean rigid border controls inside what is normally the EU's coveted control-free travel zone. It has fueled tensions among member states, and anti-migrant parties have won votes by fomenting public fears of foreigners.

They mostly live in arrival countries such as Greece and Italy or wealthy ones like Germany where they try start a new life.

The talks involving 16 of the bloc's 28 leaders aim to mend rifts over burden sharing but also to shore up German Chancellor Angela Merkel, pressed by her own government to tighten her liberal approach to asylum.

Plans to set up migrant reception centers in Albania are also under discussion.

Instead of hard overall deals among all member states, she said it was "also about bi- and trilateral agreements for mutual benefit". He mentioned Libya - the main jumping off point for countries bound for Europe - other African countries and the Balkans.

The prime ministers of Denmark, Belgium and Luxembourg also backed the idea of outsourcing the effort to tame migration, although they emphasized the need to respect global law.

Berlin's other idea is to send back those asylum seekers who make it to countries like Germany to the states of their first arrival, like Italy.

Merkel is under pressure to find a solution by the summit, because her coalition partner is pushing for a sharper course in migration policy that could ultimately lead to a collapse of her government.


Merkel however downplayed the likelihood of "an overall solution to the migration problem", suggesting "bilateral or trilateral agreements for mutual benefit" instead. And Italy's new government has unveiled a sweeping set of anti-immigration proposals that would more quickly send migrants back out of Europe.

Italy and Malta refused to take in the ship which was stranded at sea for days before being offered safe haven in Spain.

The world's leading container shipping company Danish Maersk Line on Saturday said one of its vessels rescued 113 migrants off the coast of southern Italy.

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.

Earlier this month, Italy's populist eurosceptic government refused to allow a ship carrying hundreds of migrants to dock in any of its ports.

Danilo Toninelli slammed Malta's decision as absurd and inhumane.

Maltese Premier Joseph Muscat sought to lower the rhetoric as he arrived Sunday in Brussels, saying now was not the time for a "blame game".

As with everything linked to migration in Europe, even the meeting in Brussels has not pleased everybody.

Underscoring the divisions, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic - which reject any suggestion of mandatory refugee resettlement among European Union members - said they would boycott the meeting.

Since Mediterranean arrivals spiked in 2015, when more than a million refugees and migrants reached the bloc, European Union leaders have been at odds over how to handle them, the feud weakening their unity and undermining Europe's free travel area.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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