Malta tells aid boat with migrants to go away

Elias Hubbard
June 25, 2018

Echoing ally Merkel, he urged a European solution, "whether that is cooperation among 28 or among several countries that decide to move forward together".

New arrivals of migrants and asylum seekers coming to Europe via the Mediterranean have dropped by more than half this year compared with the same period in 2017, according to the United Nations migration agency: 40,944 people as of Wednesday.

The Sunday talks are unlikely to produce new solutions and the European Union will go on pushing to curb arrivals even though working with countries from where numerous migrants set out on their journey, like Tunisia or Niger is complicated, slow and costly. At stake could be the European Union's prized borderless movement in the area known as the Schengen zone, which is the foundation for many other aspects of European integration.

Merkel, who is battling a domestic political crisis with her coalition partners over migration, said she was seeking "bilateral and trilateral" deals to cope with short-term migration pressures.

"We are definitely satisfied in Rome, " he said in a tweet.

Italy has no right to ask Malta to accept the stranded migrant rescue ship Lifeline, according to Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat.

Italy on Saturday said "arrogant" France risked becoming its "No.1 enemy" on migration issues, a day before European leaders convene in Brussels for a hastily arranged meeting on the divisive topic.

Plans to set up migrant reception centers in Albania are also under discussion. Under the Dublin rules, asylum-seekers must be processed in the country in which they first arrive - often Italy, Greece or Spain. He mentioned Libya - the main jumping off point for countries bound for Europe - other African countries and the Balkans.

Paradoxically, the EU's immigration policies are receiving renewed attention as the number of newcomers reaching Europe has dropped significantly.

"It is also about bi- and trilateral agreements for mutual benefit", she said. And Italy's new government has unveiled a sweeping set of anti-immigration proposals that would more quickly send migrants back out of Europe.

His appeal came as migration tensions surged on the Mediterranean itself.

More than 400 migrants were also rescued in three operations off the coast of Spain on Saturday, days after Madrid took in the more than 600 rejected by Italy and Malta.

The urgency of finding a solution was highlighted by the plight of the Lifeline, the second rescue vessel left adrift in the Mediterranean after Italy and neighbouring Malta refused it permission to dock.

Italy's defence minister Elisabetta Trenta later said that the new stance did not mean Italy would shirk on its global commitments.

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.

Italy's new populist coalition government, which was formed earlier this month, has taken a hard line on migration and says it wants to deport half a million undocumented migrants. Ministers from Malta and Italy argued on Twitter over which country was acting in a humane way towards the ship.

As with everything linked to migration in Europe, even the meeting in Brussels did not please everybody.

The EU is due to hold a summit on Sunday to discuss illegal migration to Europe, but Italy's government has said it will not sign up to any plan unless help for its country is prioritised.

But Mrs Merkel, the "Queen of Europe", faces stiff opposition from rebellious anti-migrant governments in Austria and the Visegrad group of Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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