European Union mini-summit tackles migration crisis political flare-up

Posted June 28, 2018

European Union leaders gathered in Brussels on June 24 for what has been called a "mini-summit" created to address the Continent's migration crisis ahead of a full EU summit four days later.

Hundreds of people fleeing conflict and persecution at home are caught in the midst of a worsening row over how to deal with the influx against a backdrop of mass drownings in the Mediterranean in recent years.

But Italy and Malta were at it again Saturday, refusing to let a German rescue ship with 234 migrants dock. Malta and Italy have both refused to take in Lifeline, which is carrying more than 200 rescued migrants.

But the German operators of the Lifeline hit out at Salvini for referring to its passengers as a consignment of "human flesh".

European Union nations, she said, have to see "how can we help each other without always having to wait for all 28, but by thinking what's important to whom".

The plight of the stranded migrants lent a sense of urgency to the meeting in Brussels, which was riven with divisions and snubbed by countries taking a hardline on the issue.

Echoing Merkel, he also raised the prospect of some member states acting alone, if it proved impossible to find agreement between all 28.

"Macron's statements on the fact that there is no migration crisis in Italy show that he is completely out of touch with reality".

Italy has accused him of "arrogance" and placed the responsibility for saving migrants in the Mediterranean squarely at the feet of Libya, much of which is lawless.

But with fears of new migrant surges in the future, diplomats warn the asylum reform impasse could destroy the EU's signature Schengen system of borderless travel.

The EU's top migration official on Monday urged European nations to work together to solve the migration crisis, ahead of a key summit in Brussels.

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There was little chance Sunday's meeting would be a game changer - especially after four eastern European states, Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia - announced they would boycott it.

Macron's comments drew a furious reaction from Italy's new populist government.

"France's generosity can not be called into question by anybody and it is not for Mr. Salvini, who closes his ports (to migrants).to teach France a lesson", French European Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau responded.

Under the EU's so-called Dublin rules, asylum-seekers must be processed in the country where they first arrive, usually Italy, Greece and Spain.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a round table meeting at an informal European Union summit on migration at European Union headquarters in Brussels, Belgium June 24, 2018.

An asylum seeker from the Horn of Africa stands in a tented camp set up by the Baobad aid group, on the outskirts of Rome, Tuesday, June 19, 2018.

A main priority is reform of the Dublin regulation that determines that the state through which an asylum seeker enters the European Union is the state responsible for their asylum application.

Merkel came under pressure last week when her interior minister Horst Seehofer threatened to unilaterally implement an immigration "master plan" the chancellor is opposed to.

Migrants on a rubber boat being rescued by the Lifeline ship in the Mediterranean.

They want refugees to be more evenly recognized across Europe, but France, in particular, is not too keen on opening its doors any wider, as we saw with the country's silence on eventually welcoming Aquarius, because far-right populism is on the rise everywhere in Europe.

The leaders of France and Germany said Sunday they were prepared to side-step anti-migrant partners in the bloc and strike deals with individual countries on how to respond.

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