EU ministers reach no consensus on Mediterranean asylum seeker problems

A migrant boat off the coast of Malta (file photo)

Home Affairs Ministers of the European Union (EU) countries failed to reach agreement on how to share the burden of the Mediterranean immigrant crisis in a meeting here on Thursday.

There were optimistic reports during the day about progress in creating a majority opinion on improving the Mediterranean arrivals’ situation.

Finnish Minister for the Interior Maria Ohisalo said before the meeting that “no one should be allowed to drown in the Mediterranean any longer”. The intention is to move to a more organized system when a refugee ship arrives.

Ohisalo said Finland “continues to work for a wider joint responsibility in resettling asylum seekers. She said the talks so far show that the member countries have a clear intention to develop the joint European asylum system despite the challenges.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home affairs and Citizenship, noted in the press conference that a decision does not exist yet. He was not willing to explain any details of the existing drafts.

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer told media in the afternoon about a French-German plan that was being discussed in Helsinki with Italy, Malta and with Finland as the EU Council presidency country.

Seehofer underlined that the plan was just about rescue and the asylum seekers would be scrutinized both for security and for asylum basis grounds. If inadmissible, they would be sent back.

Talking to media later, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini demanded more emphasis on the extradition of asylum seekers.

Conference sources said that both Italy and Malta were ill disposed to the idea that reception centers would be established on Italian and Maltese territory even though the immigrants would later be transported to other EU countries.

Salvini said the plan would place too heavy responsibility on Italy and Malta. Finnish national radio Yle quoted him as saying that Italy insists that asylum seekers should also be transferred to such EU countries that so far have refused to accept asylum seekers.

While consultations about an asylum seeker policy would continue next week, Finland as the presidency country will be calling a meeting in Malta in September. Yle reported that Salvini “hopes agreement would be reached in the talks in Malta.”