Britain, France and Germany have joined forces to pressure the EU into setting up migrant detention centres in Italy and Greece by the end of the year. The migrant centres would distinguish between genuine refugees, who would be allowed to stay, and economic migrants, who would be returned home.
In a joint statement, the countries called on Luxembourg, which holds the rotating presidency of the bloc, to convene an emergency meeting between the home and interior ministers of each member state within the next two weeks in order to discuss concrete proposals that can be voted on at the next scheduled meeting in October, the Sydney Morning Herald has reported.
Those proposals include setting up a number of migration detention centres at “hot spots” in Italy and Greece where migrants would be fingerprinted and their data recorded. A decision would then be made on whether they were genuine refugees in need of asylum, or economic migrants hoping to improve their lot. The latter would be returned home.
The three countries want the centres to be set up “by the end of the year,” a French official said.
In addition, the three countries have reiterated calls for the Commission to draw up a list of “safe countries of origin,” from which asylum applications by nationals would automatically be rejected.
“As long as we have not got reception centres in the countries where migrants arrive, and as long as we are not discouraging more people to cross the Mediterranean by sending illegal migrants back, this crisis will just keep escalating,” said the same official.
On Sunday, the Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel called upon other member nations to follow Germany’s lead and take in more asylum seekers. Germany is set to receive 800,000 this year alone, creating tensions within the German population.
“What is happening at the moment is not just,” Ms Merkel said. “If Europe is a place of solidarity – and we have also often shown our solidarity – then we must on this question remain solidly united.”
However, she conceded that “in order to help those who are in distress, we must also be able to tell those who aren’t in this situation that they can’t remain with us,” adding: “It’s all dependent on being able to make this determination as quickly as possible.”
On the same day, the French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told a meeting of the Socialist Party that migrants must be processed rapidly and welcomed. Migrants who “are fleeing war, persecution, torture, oppression, must be welcomed,” he said, adding that the rule should be to treat them with “dignity”.
The proposals came a day after Home Secretary Theresa May met with her French and German counterparts to discuss migration on the sidelines of a security meeting in Paris. The three discussed the need for reception centres placed at locations where migrants commonly arrive in the EU, according to the Telegraph.
A joint statement by the three ministers “underlined the necessity to take immediate action to deal with the challenge from the migrant influx.”