The Commissioner of the European Union (EU) has urged Italy to “use force” when necessary to collect the fingerprints of asylum seekers coming into the country, and to immediately activate two new migrant registration “hotspots” to ensure that all migrants are duly cataloged when entering the continent.
In the EU Commission report on Italy to be released on Tuesday, Brussels calls on the Italian state to pick up the pace in “giving a legal framework to the activities of hotspots, in particular to allow the use of force in the collection of fingerprints and to detain any migrants who resist.”
The European Commission has already begun legal action against Greece, Croatia and Italy for failing to implement the Eurodac Regulation, which mandates fingerprinting asylum seekers and cataloguing the data within 72 hours of their entry into the country.
In recent months, hundreds of thousands of migrants have arrived in Europe, causing tensions among the EU states.
Nevertheless, at a book presentation in Milan Monday, EU Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos publicly praised the swift response to the problem by Italian Minister of the Interior Angelino Alfano. “Italy is now moving quickly and I want to publicly praise Alfano,” he said.
“All these countries were caught by surprise” by exceptional migratory flows, Avramopoulos said, while underscoring the urgency of a quicker response.
Alfano said that Italy has already taken “nearly 100% percent” of fingerprints of asylum seekers, and moreover that the Italian Supreme Court had handed down its own rulings “authorizing the use of proportionate force to collect fingerprints.”
Italy and Greece, who have borne the brunt of the waves of migrants landing on European shores, have expressed their grievances with the EU over the perceived lack of support and understanding for their predicament. They have also been accused of a passive-aggressive reaction, in allowing large numbers of asylum seekers to simply pass through the country to register elsewhere in Europe.
According to EU statistics released last Thursday, a total of 812,705 people claimed asylum in the EU bloc in the first nine months of 2015.
The EU Commission stated that “despite the substantial encouragement” of the Commission, “only one of the six designated hotspot is fully operational, in Lampedusa,” adding their expectation that two more centers in Pozzallo and Porto Empedocle will be fully operational in the coming days.”
For his part, Alfano responded that the new registration hotspots are insufficient in themselves. “The strategic plan of the EU is made of hotspots and also the relocation of refugees. So it is clear that we must open hotspots but it is also clear that the redeployment should work,” he said.
Alfano also said that he considered the procedures against Italy “unjust and unreasonable” but expressed his hope that the rest of Europe will come to understand the problem as Italy understands it, because “we are right,” he said.
“We think Europe should be thanking us,” he said.
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome