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Italy's Renzi calls on EU to change asylum rules as refugee crisis grows

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has called on the EU to reform its rules on asylum seekers amid a huge influx of boat migrants on Italian soil. His plea comes as neighboring countries tighten border controls.

In an interview in the Sunday edition of the "Corriere della Sera" newspaper, Renzi called on the European Union to change rules stipulating that refugees must apply for asylum in the first country of entry to Europe.

The so-called Dublin II regulation has been criticized for putting the main burden of looking after refugees on Mediterranean countries, such as Italy and Greece, which bear the brunt of the wave of migrants crossing from Africa by boat.

"In Europe we must change the principle set by Dublin II," Renzi told the paper, adding that he had an unspecified "Plan B ready" that would, however, "be a wound inflicted on Europe," if the European Council did not show solidarity with his country.

Renzi insisted that the current political chaos in Libya, which is allowing many migrant boats to use the country as a place of departure, was "Europe's responsibility in light of the intervention four years ago" by NATO to help rebels oust dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

More than 57,000 migrants and asylum seekers had arrived in Italy so far this year as compared with 54,000 by this time last year, he said.

'Insufficient redistribution plan'

The Italian prime minister also fiercely criticized a migrant redistribution plan proposed by the EU, under which 24,000 asylum seekers from Italy and 16,000 from Greece would be relocated within the bloc.

"Migration is a serious issue and - let's be frank - the answers that Europe is giving are insufficient. Relocating only 24,000 people is almost a provocation," he said.

Matteo Renzi EPA/ANGELO CARCONI

The migrant crisis has put political pressure on Renzi

The plan, which has met with considerable opposition from a number of leaders of EU states who object to taking in more migrants, is due to be considered at a June 25-26 meeting of the bloc in Brussels.

Renzi said he would also raise the immigration issue with his British and French counterparts when they visit Italy this week.

Tightened controls

His remarks come as Italy's neighbors France and Austria step up border controls to stop migrants moving on to other EU destinations from Italy.

Normally, free cross-border movement is allowed within most of the European Union under the Schengen treaty, but the controls have been temporarily reintroduced amid the migrant crisis.

The crackdown has resulted in growing numbers of migrants camping out in railway stations in Rome and Milan.

On Saturday, Italian police in riot gear moved in to disperse around 200 migrants staging a sit-in at a border crossing to France after French police refused them entry.

tj/jr (dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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