EU min­is­ters at odds over im­mi­gra­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BRUSSELS: Euro­pean Union in­te­rior min­is­ters were at odds yes­ter­day over how to han­dle im­mi­gra­tion, with heated dis­cus­sions be­tween states who want more bur­den shar­ing and those who op­pose any kind of oblig­a­tory re­lo­ca­tion. “We are look­ing for com­pro­mises but at the mo­ment they are not there,” said Thomas De Maiziere of Ger­many, which last year took in about 900,000 mi­grants and refugees.

The min­is­ters had a heated de­bate over din­ner on Thurs­day af­ter EU chair Slo­vakia put for­ward its pro­posal to re­form the bloc’s asy­lum sys­tem, which col­lapsed last year as mem­ber states quar­reled over how to han­dle an un­con­trolled in­flux of refugees and mi­grants that saw 1.3 mil­lion peo­ple reach­ing Europe, mostly from the Mid­dle East and North Africa.

“We had a very open dis­cus­sion dur­ing the din­ner, some­times pas­sion­ate, very frank,” said Robert Kali­nak of Slo­vakia. “We knew this would not be easy but we have to breach dif­fer­ing views be­tween mem­ber states. “All of us have the same goal - we want to solve the mi­gra­tion cri­sis ... What we in­vented last year is not as ef­fi­cient as we ex­pected so we are obliged to pro­pose other ways.” To re­gain con­trol over the flows of peo­ple into the con­ti­nent, the EU strength­ened its ex­ter­nal bor­ders, struck deals with some of the main coun­tries of ori­gin and tran­sit along the mi­gra­tion routes and sus­pended its Schen­gen free travel zone.

Over­all, the num­ber of ar­rivals has de­creased from last year but they con­tinue un­abated in Italy and tens of thou­sands of peo­ple are still stuck in Greece and Italy, some­times in dire con­di­tions. EU states can­not agree how to han­dle them. De­spite agree­ing last year to re­lo­cate 160,000 peo­ple from Italy and Greece, east­ern Euro­pean coun­tries, in­clud­ing Slo­vakia, Poland and Hun­gary, have re­fused to take any in. Ger­many, which re­ceived most of those who made it to Europe last year, is backed by Swe­den, Italy and Malta - which takes over the bloc’s pres­i­dency in Jan­uary for six months - in push­ing for oblig­a­tory re­lo­ca­tion in the asy­lum re­form.

That is pre­cisely what the east­ern coun­tries are op­pos­ing. In­stead, they say, they can of­fer more re­sources to po­lice ex­ter­nal bor­ders or take on more re­spon­si­bil­ity for de­por­ta­tions. “We have to have a mech­a­nism on a per­ma­nent ba­sis, we can­not dis­cuss it ev­ery time there is a cri­sis,” said Carmelo Abela of Malta.

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