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Where do EU countries stand on migration?

June 22, 2018

Since the 2015 migration crisis, EU member states have failed to agree on a common approach to irregular migration. From strengthening the EU's external borders to bolstering Frontex, DW examines the situation.

A close-up profile of a migrant after leaving Libya for European soil
Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/O. Calvo

For EU member states, trying to find a common solution to irregular migration has exposed the fault lines that divide the bloc. Here's where several EU countries stand when it comes to irregular migration and the bloc's external borders.

Germany: German Chancellor Angela Merkel has consistently called for an EU-wide approach to irregular migration to the bloc.

Since the 2015 migration crisis, the German government has pushed for asylum-seekers to be resettled from frontline countries such as Italy and Greece to other EU member states in order to share the burden across the bloc.

Read more: Germany's reporting on asylum seekers exposes 'latent racism'

The chancellor has faced criticism from within her Christian Democratic Union (CDU), its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU) and even other EU member states.

But Merkel has backed proposals to beef up the EU's external borders by increasing capacity at Frontex, the bloc's border management agency.

Infographic showing distribution of refugees to German states

France: The centrist French government has pushed for a coordinated approach to irregular migration to the EU, with President Emmanuel Macron saying there must be a "more efficient system of solidarity and responsibility."

Macron has called for strengthening Frontex, fighting human trafficking, and creating a system that fairly reallocates asylum seekers across the bloc. The French government has also pushed for bilateral agreements with origin and transit countries.

Domestically, authorities have enforced a hard-line policy on irregular migrants. In April, France passed tough measures against irregular migrants, including heavy penalties and doubling the time a migrant can be held in detention to 90 days.

Italy: Italy's populist government has taken a hard-line stance against irregular migration, with Interior Minister Matteo Salvini calling for significantly strengthening the bloc's external borders.

In practice, Italian authorities have prevented humanitarian ships carrying migrants saved in the Mediterranean from docking at the country's ports and threatened to seize rescue boats, saying many of them are operating illegally.

Read more: By refusing entry to migrant rescue ship, Italy and Malta reveal legal shortcomings

After the Balkan route was closed in early 2016, migrants fleeing conflict and extreme poverty in Africa, the Middle East and Asia have taken to the central Mediterranean as an alternative route to enter the EU via Italy.

Salvini's League party came into power by campaigning to deport hundreds of thousands of economic migrants, but such a move is unlikely, according to analysts. Italy has refused to accept migrants from other EU countries, with Salvini telling German media: "We cannot take in one more person."

Austria: Austria's right-of-center government, led by Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, has called for stronger external borders and shored up support for such measures from other EU member states.

Kurz, a vocal critic of Merkel's open-door policy for refugees, has said he supports expanding Frontex's powers and boosting its capacity by hiring thousands more staff, measures that are in line with similar proposals made by the German chancellor.

Read more: German academics propose new approach to immigration reform

Austria has found support for its hard-line policies from other EU member states, including Visegrad countries such as Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.

Poland: Since the 2015 migration crisis, the Polish government has refused to accept irregular migrants, especially under a quota scheme. Warsaw has cited national security for restricting migration to the central European country.

Poland has called for increasing support for Frontex and expanding the agency's powers to better tackle irregular migration at the bloc's external borders.

Read more: Refugee children making a new life in Germany

Out of roughly 5,000 asylum applicants in 2017, Poland approved only 520 of them, mainly those from former Soviet nations, including Russia, Ukraine and Tajikistan.

Infographic showing where most refugees come from

Greece: In 2015, Greece bore the brunt of the migration crisis as more than 820,000 migrants entered the EU via the Mediterranean country. However, the number dwindled shortly after the Balkan route was closed in early 2016 as part of a refugee exchange deal with Turkey.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has urged other EU member states to ease the burden on frontline countries by resettling them under a reallocation system.

Read more: Migrants 'need legal ways to come to Europe'

"We must fight together to put in place a migration policy that shows solidarity with the countries that receive these significant flows," Tsipras said in January.

The Greek government has also urged for stronger external borders and a coordinated response to irregular migration to the bloc.

Documentary: After the Escape - Finding Home in a Foreign Land

ls/ng (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)

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