EU refugee re­sponse ex­poses di­vi­sions, mea­ger am­bi­tions


The Euro­pean Union de­cided Fri­day to share 40,000 of the refugees land­ing in Italy and Greece but foot-drag­ging and ver­bal snip­ing over the move ex­posed deep di­vi­sions about how to deal with Europe’s mas­sive mi­grant in­flux.

While the size of the chal­lenge is daunt­ing, the EU’s re­sponse has been un­der­whelm­ing. More than 114,000 mi­grants flee­ing wars or poverty have been plucked from the Mediter­ranean so far this year as they try to cross in un­sea­wor­thy smug­glers’ boats. Some 2,600 have died or are miss­ing along the route, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion.

“It is — to tell the dis­turb­ing truth — a very mod­est ef­fort,” Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker said Fri­day af­ter EU lead­ers agreed at a sum­mit to de­cide by late July on how to dis­trib­ute the refugees.

Ital­ian Prime Min­is­ter Mat­teo Renzi agreed.

“It’s not a big num­ber,” he said. “For Italy it’s a small help, but there’s still a lot of work to do.”

Greece and Italy have been swamped by the ar­rivals, while Hungary and Bulgaria are also un­der pres­sure from thou­sands of mi­grants trav­el­ing over land. Things are likely to get worse amid the sum­mer high sea­son for mi­grant cross­ings.

Rad­i­cal ac­tion is be­ing taken around Europe in re­sponse. Hungary has pledged to build a fence to keep out the tor­rent of mi­grants cross­ing its bor­der with Ser­bia. France and Italy have been at log­ger­heads over the move­ment of mi­grants along their com­mon bor­der. Po­lice have dis­man­tled mi­grant camps in north­ern France, from where peo­ple are hop­ing to cross into the UK.

Greece and Italy have been ac­cused of not prop­erly screen­ing ar­rivals and al­low­ing them to move deeper into the 28-na­tion EU.

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