June 29 (UPI) — European Union leaders struck an immigration deal early Friday that could ease the burden of resettling refugees caught up in Europe’s migrant crisis.
EU leaders struck the agreement at their summit in Belgium overnight Thursday. The conference is geared toward Britain’s departure from the 28-nation bloc, but immigration became a chief subject as leaders addressed a controversial new screening plan for immigrants.
EU leaders agreed Friday controlled migrant processing centers would be set up on a voluntary basis to help distinguish between legitimate asylum seekers and undeserving migrants, who will be turned back.
Under the agreement, the locations of the screening centers will be in countries where migrants first arrive, but it’s not yet clear which countries will host the centers. Nations in northern Africa were previously mentioned as possible sites.
The deal would give more support to Italy and other Mediterranean countries and intensify efforts to stop smugglers operating out of Libya. It also includes a statement about a need for boats to pick up migrants in the Mediterranean, which would provide relief to Italy. Rome has controversially refused this month to accept hundreds of migrants waiting at sea.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said reaching a deal took “long negotiation, but from today Italy is no longer alone.”
German Chancellor Angela Merkel needed a deal to avoid a political crisis in Berlin. The chancellor was under pressure to reduce the number of asylum seekers Germany accepts and agree to other immigration restrictions, or risk a collapse of her ruling coalition.