Malta, Greece, Italy, Spain and Cyprus demand more solidarity in the reception of asylum seekers. The EU interior ministers are meeting this week to discuss the issue.
Five EU Mediterranean countries are calling on Brussels to show more solidarity with those member states facing the largest “migration flows”. The Union should do more to address these challenges, according to a “Med5” statement released in Valletta on Saturday. To do this, the countries needed more surveillance means and equipment, it said. “Aerial surveillance in the pre-frontier area is an essential part of the fight against migrant smuggling”, the summit statement reads.
In the Maltese capital, the interior ministers from Malta, Greece, Italy and Spain as well as a state secretary in the Cypriot interior ministry had gathered for the fifth summit. The meeting took place in view of the Council meeting of EU interior ministers this week in Brussels. There, the “external dimension of asylum and migration” is again on the agenda. The “Med5” are demanding that states such as Libya and Tunisia receive further financial resources to combat irregular migration. However, safe and legal channels of migration should also be promoted.
The “Med5” are also pushing for a “permanent and binding” mechanism for the redistribution of refugees arriving in boats. In these so-called “boat relocations”, asylum seekers are distributed among other EU member states. Only a few countries – including Germany – participate in this so far voluntary mechanism. Also, so far only 207 people have been admitted from Italy and Malta – mostly only after a procedure lasting many months.
Originally, the EU Commission wanted to make participation in such a mechanism mandatory for all EU states, but Eastern European governments like Poland and Hungary in particular have torpedoed this so far. In 2020, the Commission had therefore presented a new proposal for asylum reform. The redistribution according to a fixed key would be regulated in a “Screening Regulation”. This would be preceded by a fast-track asylum procedure at the EU’s external border.
The “Med5” summit took place only one week after the boat accident off the Italian coastal town of Crotone. A debate is raging in Italy over whether the now confirmed death toll of at least 70 could have been rescued. Frontex had become aware of the boat in the Ionian Sea, presumably with the help of satellite phone tracking. Two Frontex planes subsequently observed the boat, but did not report an emergency at sea.
The newly appointed Frontex Director Hans Leitjens also attended the meeting in Malta. The “Med5” demand more support from the border agency in monitoring international waters. Frontex should also quickly deport rejected asylum seekers. For a stronger role in this area, Frontex launched a “return centre” a year ago under the leadership of a former German Federal Police officer.
Published in German in „nd“.
Image: The boat that sunk in Crotone region as spotted by Frontex (Frontex).