Europe migrants: Disputes make EU summit a key test
[June 27 2018]
The migration issue is back again - big time - for EU
leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
How to deal with the many undocumented migrants -
mainly Africans - who continue to risk their lives in the Mediterranean,
hoping to start new lives in the EU? It will be the main topic at this
The migrant flows include refugees fleeing the Syrian
war and other conflicts, urgently seeking asylum.
It is not a crisis on the scale of 2015, when
thousands were coming ashore daily on the Greek islands. The European
Council - the EU's strategic leadership - says the numbers illegally
entering the EU have dropped 96% since their peak in October 2015.
But this month's tensions over migrant rescue boats,
barred from entry to Italian ports, put the issue firmly back in the EU
The Lifeline was only allowed to dock in Malta after
intense diplomacy among several EU states, who agreed to share out the
migrants, to ease Malta's burden.
The Dublin principle - that asylum seekers should stay
in the country where they enter the EU - is not working. Italy and
Greece, receiving the most, demand that their neighbours share the
What are the new pressures on EU leaders?
Italy's new populist government has made getting an EU-wide
deal on immigration and asylum a priority.
The issue played a major role in the Italian election,
catapulting nationalist League leader Matteo Salvini into power. But it
is a powerful election issue EU-wide.
Austria's right-wing government takes over the EU's
rotating presidency next month and it has a hardline stance on irregular
migrants. So do its Visegrad Group neighbours: the Czech Republic,
Slovakia, Hungary and Poland. That group rejected an EU scheme to
relocate 160,000 refugees from overcrowded camps in Greece and Italy.
Italy is the main destination for migrants rescued from overloaded boats off Libya
Much attention will focus on German Chancellor Angela
Merkel. Her Bavarian coalition partner, the CSU, has threatened to start
blocking migrants at the border if they have already registered in
another EU country, defying Mrs Merkel's policy. Without the CSU, she
would lose her parliamentary majority.
European Council President Donald Tusk told the
leaders in his pre-summit letter "the stakes are very high and time is
He warned that the EU's problems with migration policy
were giving ammunition to populists, who "offer simple answers to the
most complicated questions".
What solutions are on offer?
There will be talk of "regional disembarkation
platforms" - an Austrian-Danish proposal, aimed at breaking the business
model of the people-smuggling gangs. It is in the draft summit
conclusions, seen as a way to speed up the processing of asylum claims
and stopping illegal economic migrants.
They could deter migrants from putting to sea in
Gangs might then be less able to profit from migrants'
Getting North African countries to host such centres
could be very difficult.
Close co-ordination with UN agencies will be needed,
to prevent them becoming crowded, dangerous camps
Greece says that emergency action is necessary to 'decongest' some of its islands
The EU should beef up the border agency Frontex, to
make it a genuine border police force, the European Commission says. The
force is to be boosted from the current 1,300 (with 1,500 in reserve) to
10,000 by 2027.
The force could intervene more rapidly, nipping
migrant emergencies in the bud, preventing any repetition of the 2015
Solidarity has been lacking among the 28 member
Frontex still lacks some important resources that were
EU police risk usurping the role of national border
guards - a sensitive issue.
The EU wants much tighter co-operation with transit
countries and migrants' home countries. This would allow more failed
asylum seekers to be sent back; the "return" rate currently is just
36.6%, the Commission says.
There has been effective EU co-operation with Turkey:
a 2016 deal led to a drastic drop in migrants taking the Balkan route.
The EU naval mission off Libya works closely with the
Libyan coastguard to stop people-smuggling.
Conditions are dire in Libyan migrant holding centres.
Turkey is still short of €3bn
(£2.6bn; $3.5bn), pledged by the EU for Syrian refugees..
Tackling poverty in Africa, from
which many migrants are fleeing, requires generous EU funding. There is
an EU Trust Fund for Africa, but it is short of €1.2bn in pledged funds.
Courtesy : BBC News
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