Thursday 13 December 2018

Macron proposes sanctions for EU states refusing asylum migrants

French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Reuters

Marine Pennetier

French President Emmanuel Macron said yesterday that he favoured the implementation of financial sanctions for EU countries that refuse migrants that have proven asylum status.

Macron was speaking on the eve of a hastily-convened summit on immigration in Brussels today between EU leaders on the migration dispute that is dividing Europe.

"I am for myself in favour of mechanisms that indeed take this into account," Macron said when asked about his views on possible financial sanctions.

"You can't have countries that massively benefit from the solidarity of the European Union and that massively voice their national selfishness when it comes to migrant issues," he added.

Meanwhile, Spanish coast guards said that they had rescued nearly 600 migrants trying to make the perilous crossing from Africa early yesterday, while off the coast of Libya coastguards recovered bodies of five migrants and picked up 185 survivors.

Elsewhere in the Mediterranean, Malta's army made a medical evacuation from a stranded rescue ship that Italy and Malta have refused to take in, while the container ship Alexander Maersk picked up 113 migrants from a boat off southern Italy last Friday, the ship owner said.

The rescues come ahead of today's EU summit in Brussels to discuss disputes over migration.

The Maltese government said its army was answering a request to offer medical assistance to a person on board the MV Lifeline boat and would also provide humanitarian supplies.

Last Friday night and yesterday morning, Spanish rescuers picked up 449 people from 20 dinghies in the Mediterranean, as well as 129 people from a wooden raft heading from West Africa to the Canary Islands, the maritime rescue service said on Twitter.

Earlier this month Spain offered safe haven to the charity ship Aquarius that was blocked from docking in Italy or Malta as Rome's new government tries to pressure European partners to shoulder more of the burden of immigration from North Africa.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said last Thursday a draft EU accord on migration had been withdrawn after he clashed with Chancellor Angela Merkel over an issue that is splitting Europe.

Italy last Friday slammed Malta's refusal to take in the Dutch-flagged MV Lifeline as "inhumane", but Maltese prime minister Joseph Muscat yesterday retorted that his country would not be told what to do.

EU leaders will hold an emergency meeting today to discuss migration, with Merkel at odds with a coalition partner over its demands to turn back migrants at the border.

However, several central European countries have said they will boycott the Brussels meeting - and speaking last Friday, Merkel played down expectations of any major breakthrough.

Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache said yesterday that he expects a chain reaction across the European Union if Germany closes its borders to refugees.

The German NGO Mission Lifeline that operates the MV Lifeline ship called for a swift resolution at the EU summit.

"Europe owes a solution to 234 rescued people on the MV Lifeline and 113 people on the merchant vessel Alexander Maersk.

"Both have no port of safety assigned as of yet and remain adrift in international waters," it said in a statement.

© Reuters


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