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.