Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Macron: EU countries agree to new migrant 'mechanism'

French leader asks for member states to spread migrants from southern shores across the bloc

French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after delivering a joint statement on migration. Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron leaves after delivering a joint statement on migration. Reuters

Fourteen European Union countries have lined up behind a so-called “solidarity mechanism,” proposed by Germany and France, to allocate migrants across the bloc.

Eight of the states have made commitments to absorb more resettled migrants after a final summit agrees the terms of the allocation mechanism at a summit due to be held in Malta in September. The other states will support the accord to ensure the involvement of a greater set of countries.

President Emmanuel Macron said the goal of the system was to ensure that people were not trapped in Libya, unable to move forward to Europe or back to their homelands.

“In principle, 14 member states, at this stage, have expressed their agreement with the Franco-German document,” Macron said, according to Reuters. He added that the new initiative would be “quick” and “automatic.”

The French president tweeted on Monday that Europe “can not sit idly by when thousands of men, women and children who have left everything fall into the hands of human traffickers.”

“We can not leave them with no choice but bombing in Libya or sinking in the Mediterranean,” he added.

France has requested the Libyan government to ensure migrants would no longer be placed in custody and that appropriate measures would be taken to ensure their safety.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas said after the meeting that senior EU ministers “have not yet reached our goal, but we have managed to get much further than we have been before”.

"The haggling around rescues in the Mediterranean has to be ended," he added, urging a “coalition of the willing” to come together to tackle the issue.

Italy’s Matteo Salvini, part of a populist government critical of migration into the EU, was not present at Monday’s meeting.

The populist Interior minister had tweeted his strong disagreement with the talks and allowing France and Germany determine the bloc's policy while nations like Italy are on the front line.

"Italy does not take orders and is not a partner," he said. "If Macron wants to discuss migrants, come to Rome."

He also tweeted that France and Germany were trying to determine the bloc’s refugee policy while nations such as Italy were on the front line.

“We intend to make ourselves respected,” the Italian deputy prime minister and interior minister said.

Mr Salvini, also Italian Deputy Prime Minister, criticised the central roles played by France and Germany in setting migration policy for the EU.

“Enough of making choices only in Paris and Berlin,” he wrote in a Facebook on Sunday, accompanied by a letter sent to French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

“Italy is no longer willing to accept all the migrants that arrive in Europe. France and Germany cannot decide migration policy by ignoring the demands of the most exposed countries such as us and Malta.”

He sparked controversy earlier in the year when he refused humanitarian boats to dock in southern Italy.

While migration continues from north Africa and sub Saharan Africa into Europe’s southern shores, illegal EU border crossings are at a six-year low.

EU member states saw around a twelfth of the 1.8 million crossings at the height of the migration crisis in 2015, according to the bloc’s border agency.

The United Nations says 426 people have died attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean Sea so far this year.

Updated: July 23, 2019 04:56 PM

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