France, Germany back migrant quota initiative

Emmanuel Macron
Emmanuel Macron

Bucharest, Feb 7 France, Germany and seven other EU nations on Thursday gave their support to a proposed initiative that would create a temporary mechanism to accommodate migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, which has become a sore point in the bloc’s migrant policy as countries like Italy feel overburdened and have begun refusing docking permission to rescue vessels.

Portugal, the Republic of Ireland, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Italy and Malta also showed support for the proposal, Efe news reported.

“For me, it is undignified that every time a boat is rescued, we have this debate about which countries are going to take these people,” German Interior Minister Stephan Mayer told press as he arrived at an informal meeting of EU counterparts in Bucharest.

The topic of migration and migrant quotas was set to be at the top of the agenda in the Romanian capital as ministers look for a breakthrough to the growing logjam stemming from some member nations’ refusal to accept the policy, such as Italy.

Italy’s right-wing populist government has on several occasions denied docking permission for NGO boats carrying rescued migrants. “For us, it is important to set up a quota mechanism supported by many countries. For now, we are nine, but that’s not enough,” Mayer said.

“France and Germany want to use today to get more countries to participate in this.”

EU’s Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said the meeting would serve as one more attempt to agree on migrant disembarkation system as well as to work on the bloc’s common asylum policy.

“On migration, we’ve done a lot,” the Greek politician and diplomat said. “We’re not where we were three years ago but we have to do more in the future because we don’t know what the future holds for us.

“Migration is a problem that came to stay and Europe has to be more prepared to address future challenges,” Avramopoulos added.

With the new mechanism, Interior Ministers want to land a framework that would help avoid repeat instances of NGO boats being stranded at sea due to lack of docking permission.

German NGO boats Sea Watch and Sea Eye were recently left adrift for weeks with dozens of migrants on board after Italy refused to let them disembark.

The boats finally docked in Malta after Germany, France, Portugal, Romania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Italy struck an agreement to receive the migrants.

According to the EU’s Coast Guard and border agency Frontex, the number of undocumented migrants arriving in the bloc in 2018 reached 150,000, the lowest figure in the last five years and a 92 per cent fall compared to 2015, when the migrant crisis was at its peak.

However, the number of migrants arriving in Spain doubled in that year to 57,000.

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