Refugee crisis: Commission proposes a new plan urging EU countries to help Italy

Informal Meeting JHA July 2017
From left to right: Mr Dimitrios AVRAMOPOULOS, Member of the European Commission; Mr Andres ANVELT, Estonian Minister for the Interior.
Location: Tallinn – ESTONIA
Date: 06/07/2017
Copyright: European Union

The EU interior ministers gathered last Thursday in Tallinn to discuss Italy’s problem to deal with migration crisis together with the new Action Plan proposed by the European Commission to support Italy and increase solidarity in the EU.

The refugee crisis continues plaguing Europe in 2017 as 101.266 migrants have entered the bloc by sea through July 5 according to the UN Migration Agency IOM. Especially, more than 85% of these arrivals have been in Italy while the rest has been spread in Greece, Cyprus and Spain.

EU solidarity is absent as there are EU member states which have refused to open their own ports to refugee boats while relocation and resettlement schemes are not pacing as fast as is required in order to slow down the migration crisis.

Migration crisis still a major problem in the Mediterranean

IOM’s latest report shows that total deaths have so far reached 2.297 in the Mediterranean while at the same time last year 2.963 deaths were recorded. The latter clearly reveals that migration continues to be a great issue in the Mediterranean Sea. What is more, there have been totally 3.125 deaths from the beginning of the year till July 5 with the Mediterranean to account for almost three quarters of the global total according to IOM Missing Migrants Project (MMP) reports. Thus, more work is needed from all member states and the Commission in order to deal with it.

Commission’s Action Plan

The EC proposed a set of measures at the Informal Justice and Home Affairs Council meeting which must be implemented by the EU member states, the Commission, EU agencies and Italy to reduce and control the migration flows in the Central Mediterranean Route.

Commission is pledged to provide additional funding to enhance the capacity of the Libyan authorities and enhance the migration management in Italy. Furthermore, the EU’s executive body will ensure that EU Agencies such as the European Asylum and Support Office, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency and the European Border and Coast Guard are mobilized to face migration crisis.

The EU countries are also part of this plan and should speed up their efforts in relocating asylum seekers from Italy, work together with the European Parliament on the reform of the Dublin system for allocating asylum applications within the EU and support the return of irregular refugees from Italy. Italy itself should focus on committing its own pledges on relocation, step up returns and draft a Code of Conduct for NGO’s carrying out search and rescue activities in the Mediterranean.

The president of the European Commission mentioned that even if there has been a serious attempt to create a migration policy to control refugee crisis in the EU, still much work is required and Italy should be supported in dealing with this issue. More specifically, Jean-Claude Juncker stated: “The dire situation in the Mediterranean is neither a new nor a passing reality. We have made enormous progress over the past two and half years towards a genuine EU migration policy but the urgency of the situation now requires us to seriously accelerate our collective work and not leave Italy on its own. The focus of our efforts has to be on solidarity – with those fleeing war and persecution and with our Member States under the most pressure. At the same time, we need to act, in support of Libya, to fight smugglers and enhance border control to reduce the number of people taking hazardous journeys to Europe.”

Lack of EU solidarity

There are quite a few EU countries which are not contributing to the relocation schemes and showing that there is no unity in this issue between the member states of the Old Continent. Only 7.000 out of the 35.000 migrants who have arrived in Italy were received by other EU nations. Countries such as Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland are also not fulfilling their obligations to relocate migrants from Italy and Greece which makes the effort of the Commission and the rest EU countries even harder. Therefore, the Commission took action and launched last month legal proceedings against these countries which would allow the top EU court to impose fines.

Austria threatened to deploy tanks and soldiers in order to be protected from migrants from Italy. Clearly such actions show lack of unity within the bloc at a moment Italy needs desperate help. German Interior Minister de Maiziere mentioned on the issue: “This is not really an expression of solidarity. We must help Italy. That means we have to approach the issue as Europeans.”

All in all, migration crisis keeps on dividing counties revealing that the flaws of the European Union. Commission’s Action Plan is hopeful to provide a better migration policy and manage refugee flows in the Mediterranean but there is a lot of work to be done by each and every EU country in order to materialise it.

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