Monday 24 October 2016

Germany to demand other EU countries take more migrants

Justine Huggler in New York

Published 25/08/2015 | 02:30

Migrants wait to disembark from the LE Niamh at the Messina harbour in Sicily, Italy
Migrants wait to disembark from the LE Niamh at the Messina harbour in Sicily, Italy

Germany is expected to demand other EU countries take a larger share of asylum-seekers as Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande hold talks over the migrant crisis.

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The two leaders are set to call for a common EU policy on migrants and an overhaul of the existing system.

France and Germany are pushing for new EU-wide talks on what has been described as the worst migrant crisis since World War II.

A record 107,000 migrants crossed the EU's borders last month, according to Frontex, the EU border agency.

In Italy, a record 4,400 migrants were rescued from the Mediterranean in a single day on Saturday, while in Greece 20,800 arrived last week alone.

The crew of the Irish Navy vessel the LE Niamh saved 225 people in the operation in the Mediterranean Sea as people smugglers took advantage of ideal sea conditions off Libya to launch a fleet of overcrowded, unseaworthy boats.

Ms Merkel and Mr Hollande are pushing for a common EU list of "safe countries", whose nationals will be refused asylum.

They want to reduce the numbers of "economic migrants" from the Balkans who have little chance of being granted asylum and are clogging the system as genuine refugees arrive from countries such as Syria.

They are also pressing for the EU to move faster to set up reception centres beyond Italy and Greece, which currently bear the brunt of new arrivals and have been struggling to cope with the numbers.

Germany is also expected to renew its demands for other EU members to take more migrants.

"Of course Britain has a special role - it is not part of Schengen," Thomas de Maiziere, the German interior minister, told the BBC last week.

"But all EU countries must become more aware of their responsibilities."

Germany currently takes by far the most migrants of any EU member state, and expects to host 800,000 this year.

But Ms Merkel's government has been calling for some time for other EU countries to take a larger share.

Sigmar Gabriel, Ms Merkel's vice-chancellor, described the migrant crisis as Germany's "biggest challenge since reunification" in 1990.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the European Commission, dismissed calls for a new EU summit on immigration.

Member states should stop dragging their heels and implement existing agreements, he said.

His comments came in an opinion piece published in France's 'Le Figaro' and Germany's 'Die Welt' yesterday, hours ahead of the talks in Berlin.

"We don't need a new summit. Member states have to adopt the European measures and apply them to their territory," Mr Juncker wrote.

Ms Merkel has previously said the EU's existing rules on distributing asylum-seekers need to be changed.

Under the current rules, migrants are supposed to apply for asylum in the first member state they enter.

Most arrive in Italy and Greece, which are overwhelmed with the numbers.

Germany has long charged that they encourage them to move on to other countries, against the rules.

In Italy, rescuers were responding to new distress signals yesterday, as the country's coast guard coordinated 22 different rescue operations off the coast of Libya. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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