EU must cooperate on migration: commissioner

A handout picture obtained on June 22, 2018 from the German NGO 'Mission Lifeline' shows migrants onboard the Lifeline sea rescue boat in the Mediterranean on June 21, 2018

Tehran (AFP) – The EU’s top migration official on Monday urged European nations to work together to solve the migration crisis, ahead of a key summit in Brussels.

“It’s a moment of great responsibility,” European Union Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told AFP ahead of the two-day talks starting Thursday.

“We must find a way to adopt a shared policy and a shared strategy to face this situation, otherwise the European project is in danger,” he said during an official visit to Tehran.

An influx of migrants, often on rickety boats from Turkey and North Africa, has caused deep splits in the bloc since 2015.

The leaders of France and Germany said Sunday they were prepared to side-step anti-migrant partners in the bloc and strike deals with individual countries on how to respond.

But several countries with anti-migrant governments have bitterly opposed Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, who also faces pressure by her own government to tighten her liberal approach to asylum.

Avramopoulos warned that individual policies adopted by European states would not solve the situation. 

“There is no national solution,” he said. “All those who return to national policies, especially for managing immigration, go against the interests of their own countries.”

EU deals with Turkey and Libya, the main transit countries, have sharply cut, at least for now, the flow of migrants to Europe since a 2015 peak of over one million.

“We are not where we were three years ago,” Avramopoulos said.

But he blamed the migration crisis for putting the “European project” in danger.

With fears of new migrant surges in the future, diplomats have warned that the asylum reform impasse could destroy the EU’s signature achievement of borderless travel within the bloc.

UN refugee agency chief Filippo Grandi said last week that the migrant crisis can “be solved by cooperation, not country by country”.