Europe urged to move faster on mi­grant cri­sis

EU-Africa sum­mit in Malta to­mor­row

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BRUS­SELS: Euro­pean Union in­te­rior min­is­ters faced re­newed pres­sure to de­liver on their prom­ises for tack­ling the mi­gra­tion cri­sis yes­ter­day as they met to pre­pare the ground for a cru­cial sum­mit with African lead­ers. Dim­itris Avramopolous, the EU mi­gra­tion com­mis­sioner, urged them to act quickly on pledges to tighten ex­ter­nal bor­ders, re­lo­cate refugees from over­stretched Italy and Greece, and set up re­cep­tion cen­ters along the main Balkans route from Greece.

Yes­ter­day’s ex­tra­or­di­nary meet­ing came ahead of a spe­cial EU-Africa sum­mit in Malta on Wed­nes­day, fo­cused on how to re­duce the flow via Libya, the sec­ond-busiest mi­grant route af­ter Turkey and the Balkans. “It is now time for them (the mem­ber states) to ac­cel­er­ate the work to make th­ese prom­ises a re­al­ity on the ground,” the com­mis­sioner, a Greek na­tional, said in a state­ment. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion, the ex­ec­u­tive arm of the 28-na­tion EU, pro­posed a mul­ti­pronged plan in May to tackle the worst mi­grant cri­sis in Europe since the Sec­ond World War af­ter nearly 800 mi­grants drowned in the Mediter­ranean on their way to Italy via Libya.

The prob­lem wors­ened over the sum­mer when hun­dreds of thou­sands more peo­ple flee­ing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan ar­rived in Greece and the Balkans via Turkey. More than 3,000 peo­ple have drowned among the nearly 800,000 who have reached Europe this year. How­ever, EU states have bick­ered for months over a joint so­lu­tion, par­tic­u­larly over plans to re­lo­cate a to­tal of 160,000 asy­lum seek­ers from front­line coun­tries to other parts of the bloc.

“We need to see more re­lo­ca­tions from Greece and Italy as a mat­ter of ur­gency,” said Avramopou­los. The EU fi­nally ap­proved the re­lo­ca­tion schemes last month in the face of fierce op­po­si­tion from Hun­gary and other east­ern mem­ber states who are grap­pling with an an­ti­im­mi­grant back­lash. But since then only around 120 asy­lum seek­ers have been re­lo­cated from Italy and Greece to coun­tries like Swe­den and Lux­em­bourg.

‘Time for de­liv­ery’

States like Hun­gary are putting pres­sure on Greece to re­in­force its sea bor­ders, the first EU port of call on the dan­ger­ous Aegean Sea cross­ing from Turkey. Avramopolous said mem­ber states also need to con­trib­ute the staff and equip­ment needed to set up the agreed re­cep­tion cen­ters in Greece and Italy where peo­ple seek­ing refugee sta­tus will be sep­a­rated from eco­nomic mi­grants who will be sent back home. There are also plans to set up re­cep­tion cen­ters in the Balkan coun­tries where mi­grants can reg­is­ter and ob­tain shel­ter. “We need to in­crease re­cep­tion ca­pac­i­ties,” Avramopou­los added.

He also called for speed­ing up the re­turn of eco­nomic mi­grants to their home coun­tries. “Now is the time for de­liv­ery on all fronts,” he said. The gath­er­ing of more than 50 lead­ers from both the EU and Africa in Malta on Wed­nes­day and Thurs­day will see an over­whelmed Europe call on Africa to take back more peo­ple classed as eco­nomic mi­grants and not refugees flee­ing con­flict and per­se­cu­tion. In re­turn, Europe will of­fer up to 3.6 bil­lion eu­ros ($3.8 bil­lion) in de­vel­op­ment funds in a fresh thrust by the wealthy EU to tackle the wars and poverty in Africa that are among the root causes of the mi­gra­tion flow.

In Vi­enna mean­while, min­is­ters and se­nior of­fi­cials from 11 Euro­pean coun­tries in­clud­ing Ger­many and Swe­den met yes­ter­day to dis­cuss how to bet­ter in­te­grate the record num­bers of mi­grants. Se­bas­tian Kurz, in­te­gra­tion and for­eign min­is­ter of hosts Aus­tria, said the in­te­gra­tion of mi­grants into main­stream so­ci­ety was es­sen­tial to main­tain “so­cial har­mony” in Euro­pean coun­tries where peo­ple are “un­set­tled” by the in­flux. In Cyprus, Bri­tish of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day that 114 mi­grants from the Mid­dle East stay­ing at a mil­i­tary base on the east Mediter­ranean is­land will be de­ported if they do not claim asy­lum with the Cypriot author­i­ties.

CESME: Mi­grants and refugees walk to­wards a dinghy to travel to the Greek is­land of Chios from Cesme in the Turk­ish prov­ince of Izmir yes­ter­day. Nearly 500 peo­ple have died try­ing to cross the Aegean Sea from neigh­bor­ing Turkey this year, many of them in the nar­row but treach­er­ous stretch sep­a­rat­ing Les­bos from Turkey.

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