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EU to hold migrant crisis talks in Luxembourg

June 16, 2015

Talks to tackle migrant relocation plans were set to continue on Tuesday as EU interior ministers met in Luxembourg. The meeting followed a war of words between France and Italy over migrants waiting near Ventimiglia.

Refugees at the Italian-French border EPA/CARLO ALESSI
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Alessi

Proposals from the European Commission to relocate 40,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU countries over the next two years are expected to be denounced by several EU governments when talks get under way on Tuesday.

Disagreements over whether the relocation proposal should be binding and how many migrants should be sent where will be at the center of discussions.

"There are some who say that our proposals do not go far enough, there are others who say they go too far," commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said on Monday.

"We think a decision has to be taken now."

Collective responsibility

EU rules currently specify that asylum claims must be processed in the first EU country migrants set foot in. Countries such as Greece and Italy, however, which have seen the largest influxes of migrants travelling from Africa across the Mediterranean, said the rules have become inapplicable.

As the main landing point for Europe-bound boat migrants, Italy alone has registered around 60,000 migrant landings since the start of this year.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said on Monday there could be "no national selfishness and no closing of the eyes."

"If Europe wants to be Europe, it must tackle this problem collectively."

Italian 'Plan B'

Renzi also threatened on Sunday to implement a "Plan B" to deal with the migrant crisis that would "hurt" Europe. Although not specifically stating his options, Italian media reported that Rome could start issuing newly arrived migrants with temporary visas, giving them the right to travel throughout the Schengen zone.

Such a move would be politically explosive as it would seriously undermine both the Dublin and Schengen accords.

Waiting game

On Monday, France and Italy also exchanged an inter-EU spat over some 250 migrants currently perched on rocks at the French-Italian border town of Ventimiglia after being refused entry to France.

Italian Interior Minister Angelino Alfano described the images of the migrants as a "punch in the face for Europe," to which his French counterpart, Bernard Cazeneuve, hit back, insisting that France was fully within its rights to send illegal immigrants or asylum seekers back to Italy.

ksb/jil (AFP, dpa)

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