Mi­grant in­flux to Europe ex­ceeds 100,000 this year

Nearly 2,250 died at­tempt­ing the sea cross­ing

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

More than 100,000 mi­grants have made the per­ilous Mediter­ranean cross­ing to Europe this year, the UN said yes­ter­day, amid mount­ing ten­sions among EU na­tions on how to tackle the cri­sis. Nearly 2,250 peo­ple have died in 2017 at­tempt­ing the sea cross­ing from North Africa, the UN’s In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion (IOM) added. Italy has taken in nearly 85 per­cent of the ar­rivals-most of them sub-Sa­ha­ran Africans cross­ing from Libya-and has pleaded for help from other Euro­pean Union na­tions, say­ing it is strug­gling to cope.

“The re­cep­tion of res­cued mi­grants can­not be seen as an is­sue only for Italy, but a mat­ter for Europe as a whole,” IOM chief Wil­liam Lacy Swing said, ap­peal­ing for the rest of the EU to show more sol­i­dar­ity. On Sun­day, Ital­ian In­te­rior Min­is­ter Marco Min­niti called on EU neigh­bors to open their ports to res­cue ships pick­ing up mi­grants in the Mediter­ranean, af­ter is­su­ing a dras­tic threat to close its own ports to the boats.

But France re­jected that idea, with an aide to Min­niti’s coun­ter­part Ger­ard Col­lomb telling AFP this would only en­cour­age more mi­grants to set sail. EU in­te­rior min­is­ters are due to meet in Es­to­nia’s cap­i­tal Tallinn on Thurs­day to dis­cuss the mi­grant cri­sis-the con­ti­nent’s worst since World War II-in a bid to defuse a long-run­ning row over spread­ing asy­lum seek­ers across the bloc. The EU put in place a pol­icy in 2015 to dis­trib­ute around 160,000 asy­lum-seek­ers across dif­fer­ent coun­tries. But only about 20,000 have been re­lo­cated from Italy and Greece un­der the scheme, while Hun­gary, Poland and the Czech Repub­lic have flatly re­fused to take part.

Min­is­ters meet­ing in Tallinn will also dis­cuss pro­pos­als for a “code of con­duct” for char­i­ties op­er­at­ing res­cue boats in the Mediter­ranean, a plan an­nounced by France, Ger­many and Italy on Mon­day. Sep­a­rately, for­eign min­is­ters from Euro­pean and African coun­tries af­fected by the cri­sis will meet in Rome to­mor­row with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the EU and UN as part of a diplo­matic push to stem the in­flux. In an in­ter­view with France’s Fi­garo news­pa­per, Euro­pean mi­gra­tion com­mis­sioner Dim­itris Avramopou­los called on Tues­day for EU coun­tries to speed up de­por­ta­tions of failed asy­lum seek­ers to ease the pres­sure, but warned this needed co­op­er­a­tion from their home coun­tries.

‘Enor­mous pres­sure’

The UN fig­ures re­leased yes­ter­day showed that be­tween Jan­uary 1 and July 3, more than 85,000 mi­grants landed in Italy, nearly 9,300 ar­rived in Greece, nearly 6,500 in Spain and over 270 in Cyprus. “We are un­der enor­mous pres­sure,” Italy’s Min­niti said in an in­ter­view with Il Mes­sag­gero over the week­end, while the coun­try’s Red Cross warned that the sit­u­a­tion in over­crowded re­cep­tion cen­ters was be­com­ing crit­i­cal. The UN’s refugee agency also weighed in, warn­ing that Italy can­not con­tinue ab­sorb­ing tens of thou­sands of mi­grants on its own. “This is not sus­tain­able. We need to have other coun­tries join­ing Italy and shar­ing that re­spon­si­bil­ity,” said Vin­cent Co­chetel, UNHCR spe­cial en­voy for the cen­tral Mediter­ranean.

Aus­trian De­fense Min­is­ter Hans Peter Doskozil warned Mon­day that Vi­enna is set to im­pose bor­der checks and de­ploy sol­diers on its fron­tier with Italy if the Mediter­ranean in­flux does not slow. While the num­bers ar­riv­ing in 2017 are stag­ger­ing, they re­main far be­low last year’s fig­ures. Dur­ing the same pe­riod in 2016, 231,503 peo­ple made the cross­ing to Europe, with the 100,000-mark passed al­ready in Fe­bru­ary that year. But at that time most of the mi­grants were cross­ing from Turkey to Greece, and an EU deal with Ankara in March last year ef­fec­tively hit the brakes on that move­ment. —AFP

SALERNO: Mi­grants wait to dis­em­bark from the Span­ish ship ‘Rio Se­gura’ in the har­bor of Salerno, Italy. — AP

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