Italy Warns EU on Migrants, Calls for Change in Asylum Rules

EU | June 14, 2015, Sunday // 13:39|  views

Members of the Italian Red Cross assist a group of migrants who stay in the area of the train station in the city of Ventimiglia, northwestern Italy, at the border with France, 13 June 2015.

Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi on Sunday threatened to switch to a ‘Plan B’ to cope with the influx of migrants - an option that "would hurt Europe" - if Italy is not given greater help with the crisis.

(The crisis) “is a serious issue and, let me be clear, Europe's answers so far have not been good enough," AFP quoted Renzi as saying in an interview published in the Corriere della Sera daily.

He called for a change to the so-called Dublin II regulation, which assign most asylum seekers to the EU country they first enter and said he would discuss the issue with French President Francois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron when they visit Italy this week.

"If the European Council chooses solidarity, then good. If it doesn't, we have a Plan B ready but that would be a wound inflicted on Europe," he said, without elaborating.

Italy has long complained that its European partners are shirking their responsibilities and leaving southern Mediterranean countries like Italy and Greece to handle the migrant inflow without effective support.

Italy and Greece are the two EU member states which have been hardest hit by the latest wave of migrants arriving to their shores across the Mediterranean to flee zones of armed conflict in the Middle East and Africa.

The European Commission unveiled in late May a proposal to redistribute up to 24,000 Syrian and Eritrean migrants, who arrive in Italy over the next two years, to other countries in the European Union.

"Redistributing just 24,000 people is almost a provocation," Renzi said.

The number of migrants rescued at sea and brought to Italy has increased to 57,000 in the year to date, compared with 54,000 during the same period of last year, he added.

The Schengen open borders agreement means migrants landing in Italy can usually easily travel through neighbouring France, Austria, Switzerland and Slovenia as they seek to make it to Britain, Germany and Scandinavian countries.

But border controls have been temporarily reintroduced due to a recent summit of G7 leaders in Germany.

French police have blocked the border with Italy since Thursday, with the Interior Ministry in Paris saying it had reinforced border checkpoints over the past few weeks after an increase in migrant arrivals. Austria’s Interior Ministry has also said its border surveillance measures had been increased .

The tightened border controls have left many migrants stranded stranded at the frontier in northern Italy.

A group of around a hundred migrants from Africa were prevented from crossing from Italy into France in the border town of Ventimiglia on Saturday. The migrants staged a sit-in on Saturday after French police blocked their entry, saying they had no documents.


Tags:   Italy, Renzi, migrants, Schengen, Dublin II, asylum seekers. Mediterranean, greece, France, Austria, border


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