Ally of Merkel renews refugee cap demand
BERLIN, July 17, (Agencies): Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian ally has renewed calls for a cap on the number of refugees Germany accepts, but has avoided making it a condition for joining her in government again after this fall’s election.
The conservative bloc of Merkel’s Christian Democrats and Bavarian governor Christian Social Union enjoys a double-digit poll lead before Germany’s September election.
Seehofer’s demand for an annual cap of 200,000 on refugees was a major irritant last year, when he said his party wouldn’t join another government without one. Merkel insisted Sunday she won’t accept it.
Seehofer said Monday the cap “remains a CSU aim” but avoided making it a condition. News agency dpa reported he said: “First, we want to win the election.”
Italy delays citizenship rights bill:
Italy’s government has delayed a parliamentary vote on a citizenship rights bill as tensions rise over the number of migrants arriving on the country’s shores.
The proposal to give children born on Italian soil to foreign parents citizenship rights at birth or after at least five years of Italian schooling enjoys the support of Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni’s centre-left Democratic Party (PD).
But Gentiloni said late Sunday that the bill would be dropped until later in the year considering other “urgent deadlines” and “difficulties that have arisen on certain fringes of the majority”.
He gave his “personal commitment” to ensure the bill was approved in the autumn.
Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, who leads a small centrist party in the ruling coalition, had said that while the bill had his support in principle, he could not guarantee the necessary votes in favour considering the current climate.
A poll last week showed the bill is losing support among Italians, even though such a path to citizenship exists in many other EU countries, and despite supporters insisting the draft law has nothing to do with newlyarrived migrants.
Over 86,000 migrants have arrived so far this year, up over 10 percent compared with the same period in 2016.
The left-leaning La Repubblica daily called on the political class to “be straight with Italians and dismantle lies”.
“This law has nothing to do with those who are disembarking on our coasts,” it said.
Under the proposed bill, one of the parents would have to have been legally present in Italy for five years for children born here to be granted citizenship, so it would not apply to those refused asylum and ordered to leave the country.
Matteo Salvini, head of the anti-immigration Northern League party, described Gentiloni’s decision as “a victory” for his party, saying: “If they try again, they’ll find us ready. Stop invasion”.
Some 45 mayors in Sicily have demanded a meeting with the government this week after a heated protests over the distribution of newly-arrived migrants on the southern Italian island.
Belgium should withdraw frigate:
Belgium should withdraw its frigate from an EU mission to break up human trafficking networks near Libya because the presence of such vessels encouraged migrants to make the perilous journey across the central Mediterranean, the migration minister said.
Belgium has sent a frigate to take part in an EU operation to map and disrupt networks of people smugglers off the Libyan coast who send migrants towards Italy, often on ramshackle dinghies which are barely seaworthy.
While saving the migrants is not the core task of the military vessels that are part of the mission, they often have to do so.
“I personally think this operation should not be repeated because it is pure lunacy. There is no logic to it,” migration minister Theo Francken told broadcaster VTM.
“It is not about whether we should save them or not. We should. But this creates an effect of drawing in migrants with more dead people as a result. It is a shame on Europe,” Francken, who has a record of criticising NGOs over their behaviour in the Mediterranean, added.
A spokeswoman for the Belgian defence ministry said the country would continue to be part of the mission only if the Libyan government allowed EU vessels inside its waters, as foreseen in phase two of the EU operation.
In the first six months of 2017, some 85,000 people arrived on Italy’s southern shores, a fifth more than in the same period last year, EU border agency Frontex said earlier this month.
Nationals of Nigeria, Bangladesh and Ivory Coast, which have a low likelyhood of being recognised as asylum seekers in Europe, represented the highest number of arrivals, Frontex added.
EU curbs rubber dinghy sales:
The European Union on Monday adopted limits on the export of inflatable boats to Libya in a bid to make it harder for smugglers to send migrants to Europe.
The decision by the foreign ministers of the 28 EU states, which also covers outboard motors, is the latest to help a chaotic and violence-torn Libya stem the flow of migrants to Italy, now the main route to the bloc.
“We took a decision to introduce restrictions from today onwards on the export and supply to Libya of the inflatable boats and motors,” EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said.
“These are devices are used by traffickers for smuggling activities. This decision we have taken on the European Union level will help make their businesses and lives even more complicated,” the former Italian foreign minister told reporters.
An EU statement said there will now be a legal basis to block the supply of dinghies and outboard motors to Libya if there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect they will be used by people smugglers and human traffickers.