Thursday, September 20, 2018
   
Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax

Italy, France call for refugee processing centres in Africa

Giuseppe Conte hosted by Emmanuel Macron amid bid to bury hatchet following diplomatic row over rejected refugee ship.

Emmanuel Macron, right, and Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte

The leaders of Italy and France have urged the European Union to set up asylum processing centres in Africa to prevent refugees and migrants from undertaking the journey across the Mediterranean.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Italy's new populist Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte met in Paris on Friday in a bid to bury the hatchet after a bitter diplomatic squabble erupted this week over Rome's refusal to accept the Aquarius, a refugee and migrant rescue ship, at its ports.

"We should create European centres in the countries of departure," Conte told a press conference, referring to African nations that have seen an exodus towards Europe in recent years.

His comments were echoed by Macron, who told reporters he supported the idea of "branches of our asylum agencies to tackle this question on the other side" of the Mediterranean.

The two leaders also called for changes to the European Union's asylum rules, which put the migrant burden on their port of entry to Europe - mainly Italy and Greece.

Conte singled out the Dublin regulations, under which the EU country where an asylum seeker first arrives must deal with their application, as needing change.

"The very concept of a state of first entry needs to be rethought," he argued. "Whoever sets foot in Italy sets foot in Europe."

"We are drafting our own proposal," said Conte, adding that it will be presented during the Austrian presidency of the European Council beginning next month.

Macron urged greater solidarity with Rome over the migrant crisis, calling for "profound reforms" of the Dublin regulation. 

There have been few signs that European leaders are ready to coordinate their policies despite a looming end-of-June deadline to change the EU's current asylum rules.

In Germany, Europe's biggest economy, Chancellor Angela Merkel is embroiled in a showdown with the right wing of her governing coalition, which is demanding that she immediately ditch her liberal migration policy and tighten border controls.

On Wednesday, Germany's Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said Austria and Italy should ally themselves with Germany to work at the interior minister level on security and immigration.

In Paris, both Macron and Conte slapped down an "axis of the willing" proposed this week by hardliners such as Conte's own interior minister, Matteo Salvini, and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who says he also has the support Seehofer.

"I would want an axis of the willing comprising all European countries," Conte said.

Macron said that any decisions on joint migration policy involving France, Germany and Italy would be taken by their respective presidents and prime ministers.

Terms such as "axis" "have never brought us anything good in the past," Macron remarked, before suggesting that Salvini's links with fellow migration hardliners might be put to better use persuading them to help Italy deal with its arrivals.

"So, if Austria, Hungary and some others, thanks to these special contacts, can provide more of the solidarity that Italy needs, it's very good news for Italy and for everyone," Macron said.

Speaking alongside Macron in Paris, Conte said the two had "fully clarified" their views and were in "perfect agreement".

The spat between France and Italy erupted this week after Macron accused Rome of "cynicism and irresponsibility" for refusing to let the Aquarius dock.

Italy's new government hit back, accusing Paris of giving "hypocritical lessons" and threatening to pull out of the meeting with Macron.

Rome also summoned the French ambassador over the dispute - the second time it has done so over the migrant crisis in two months.

Macron, who has taken a tough line on migration from African countries that are not at war, said that "none of his comments were intended to offend Italy or the Italian people."

In a further gesture of reconciliation, the French foreign ministry said it was ready to welcome migrants on board Aquarius who "meet the criteria for asylum" after they arrive in Spain.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe via RSS or Email:

Theresa May warns rebel MPs back my Brexit plan or face no deal

Read More

German police clear forest camp as thousands protest coal mine

Read More

Dutch Catholic Church accused of covering up child abuse

Read More

London Mayor Sadiq Khan calls for second referendum on Brexit

Read More

Hungary to explore legal steps to challenge critical EU ruling

Read More

Spain makes U-turn, will now sell 400 missiles to Saudi Arabia

Read More

Donation

Thanks to all of our supporters for your generosity and your encouragement of an independent press!

Enter Amount:

Featured_Author

Login






Login reminder Forgot login?

ads

Subscribe to MWC News Alert

Email Address

Subscribe in a reader Facebok page Twitter page

Israel pounds Gaza

India's Kerala state devastated

Capturing life under apartheid