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EU: No compromise on refugee rescue

July 18, 2019

Interior ministers from across the European Union have failed to agree on temporary measures to manage increased migration across the Mediterranean. Officials have told DW that the future of the bloc is at stake.

A group of migrants in a queue at dawn waiting to enter inside a police van after their arrival at the Port of Malaga
Image: picture-alliance/Zumapress

EU interior ministers meeting in Finland on Thursday failed to strike a stopgap deal to address ongoing disagreements about the bloc's migration policies, particularly issues of who should take responsibility for new arrivals.

There were "very different opinions," French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said, with some ministers refusing to allow more refugees into their country, others appealing for solidarity, and many expressing concern about enticing more migrants to attempt the journey.

Ahead of the meeting, Germany's conservative interior minister, Horst Seehofer, said he would pursue a "temporary arrangement" for distributing refugees among the member states, but he expressed skepticism that a deal would be reached in one day.

Seehofer had backed away from the idea of specific migrant quotas for each country, worried that this would made it seem like there was a "de facto border opening."

Read more: Opinion: EU chooses self-interest over compassion for refugees

Plans on the horizon

But EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos played down disagreements at the summit.

"Last night it was not a decision-making event," Avramopoulos said. "We had a brainstorming; as I said, it was very animated."

France's Castaner said he is planning to host a meeting in Paris next week with around 15 of the EU's 28 member states.

"I proposed that we reach agreement as early as yesterday, but I confirm that we have not done so," Castaner said. "Some states favored refusing to even receive migrants, others favored more solidarity."

Read more: Refugees sent to Libya under EU deal face 'catastrophic' conditions

EU could 'break apart'

Luxembourg's foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, warned that member states needed to show solidarity or the bloc could "break apart."

"We're arguing from [the perspective of] two different continents," he told DW. "Firstly, from a civilized Europe, which France, Germany and others are effectively trying to create. And secondly, another Europe — a humane no-man's-land. And that's extremely bad."

Asselborn stressed that Europe still had a crucial decision to make on migration. "I hope that the decisive step isn't that we (reject) a European integration policy," he said. "Then things would go wrong."

Germany and France have sought to form an alliance of 10 or so countries for distributing refugees, with Italy still taking in some migrants. Italy's far-right interior minister, Matteo Salvini, however, has categorically rejected this plan.

During the Helsinki summit, Salvini — who has enacted hard-line policies targeting irregular migrants — wrote on Twitter that "ministers from several countries have praised Italy's policy of defending borders, which has led to a drastic reduction of arrivals in Europe and of deaths in the Mediterranean."

A 2015 plan to redistribute more than 100,000 asylum seekers from frontline countries, such as Greece and Italy, to other EU member states has proved inconsequential with only a few hundred refugees being relocated under the deal.

Read more: 'EU must rethink its approach to migration'

Trapped Refugees: Rescue Forbidden?

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ls,es/jm (AFP, dpa)