Migrant crisis: European Union leaders plan secure migrant centres

01 July, 2018, 12:07 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • GETTYMerkel addressed the Bundestag where she warned that migration could

"We can not leave those countries where asylum seekers arrive to deal with (the problem) alone", German Chancellor Angela Merkel said, even as she faces inordinate pressure in her country to impose restrictions on the influx of immigrants.

In an agreement reached Friday, the European Union's members said they would explore ways to build new centers, probably in Africa, where migrants could be screened for asylum - and from where only legitimate refugees might move on to Europe.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte spoke to CNN, saying the deal took "long negotiation, but from today Italy is no longer alone".

When asked about his view on the agreement, Italy's interior minister Matteo Salvini, who campaigned on an anti-immigrant platform, said "let's see the concrete commitments". The Italian concern has been to stop migrants from coming to Europe in the first place.

The summit underscored how Europe's 2015 spike in immigration continues to haunt the bloc, despite a sharp drop in arrivals of people fleeing conflict and economic hardship in the Middle East and Africa.

French President Emmanuel Macron said that despite suggestions that a deal would be "impossible", member states had succeeded in reaching a "European solution".

European leaders have agreed to increase funds for Spain and Morocco as more people choose the route between the two countries to cross to Europe, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Friday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel holds a news conference following the European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium June 29, 2018.

"We worry that children will be detained", UNICEF spokeswoman Sarah Crowe told dpa in Geneva, after EU leaders agreed to set up so-called "controlled centers" on European soil where migrants would be held while their asylum requests are processed.

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In a separate incident Friday, Libya's coast guard picked up 345 migrants and sent them to Tripoli.

Tusk, the summit host, meanwhile issued a fresh warning on the need for action on migration to stave off rising populism and authoritarianism, saying that "the stakes are high and time is short".

With the EU bloc deeply divided over migration, with some member states more directly affected than others, several Central European states have rejected an EU scheme which would seek to relocate 160,000 refugee camps in Greece and Italy, of which are vastly overcrowded.

Without the CSU, Mrs Merkel would lose her parliamentary majority.

Former communist countries in Eastern Europe, particularly the authoritarian governments of Hungary and Poland, implacably oppose the relocation of migrants. "The alliance with the CDU has absolute priority".

Diplomats described a tense, tortured meeting with small groups of leaders huddled together in a desperate bid to break the deadlock and avert the humiliation of heading home without an agreement. They go into the room, clash, storm out, go back again, clash again.

In his invitation letter ahead of the summit, European Council president Donald Tusk, set the tone, stating that "After the migration crisis in 2015, it became clear that the situation had to change, which is why we agreed to focus all our efforts on stemming illegal migration to Europe".

He listed the elements of the agreement, including the possibility of setting up migrant centres in European Union countries to decide on asylum requests, but he made it clear Italy had not yet decided on whether to have such a site on its territory.

Numerous finer details of the deal, such as where the processing centres will be located or how countries will share the burden of resettlement, remain vague.

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