European Union leaders meet in Brussels to discuss migrant crisis

European Union leaders meet in Brussels to discuss migrant crisis

Italy said yesterday (21 June) that it would seize two rescue migrant ships, one of which is stranded in the Mediterranean carrying over 200 migrants, adding that they were "illegally" flying the Dutch flag.

However, Macron also criticised the German NGO running the ship for contravening "all the rules" by coming to the migrants' rescue when the Libyan coastguard was already intervening.

Macron's public spats with Italy's interior minister Salvini have not abated, either.

"Dear Matteo Salvini, we have no meat on board, but humans", said a tweet on Mission Lifeline's account.

Yet agreement on a broad, overarching migration plan appeared elusive, and the summit was handicapped from the start, after being boycotted by eastern European countries deeply hostile over pressure to take in more asylum-seekers.

Sixteen EU states presented a united front on migration in Brussels on Sunday (24 June), but tensions remain, with no solutions on paper for how to deal with people seeking global protection, their movements inside Europe, or plans to prevent them from taking boats from Libya.

Salvini said that France would not transform Italy - which has taken in almost 700,000 migrants since 2013 - "into Europe's refugee camp".

On Saturday, Salvini called French President Emmanuel Macron "arrogant" and warned that France would not "transform Italy into Europe's refugee camp".

But he has also had an uncompromising approach to migration, toughening checks at France's Riviera border with Italy and refusing to accept a ship filled with rescued migrants after Italy's new leaders turned it away earlier this month.

The issue has raised tensions in Germany, where Merkel is trying to placate a coalition ally opposed to taking in more migrants.

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A populist backlash over her liberal asylum policy left Merkel weakened in elections a year ago.

The survey by Forsa for broadcasters N-tv and RTL showed that 71 percent of respondents supported Merkel's view that European countries should work together on finding a solution, over Interior Minister Horst Seehofer's nationally-focused plans, Die Welt reported Monday.

If that fails, he has vowed to order border police to turn back migrants, which means many will likely have to return to Italy.

Italy has always been frustrated at bearing the brunt of the migratory pressure under the current Dublin Regulation whereby migrants lodge asylum claims in the first European Union country they enter.

"That is why it is also about bilateral or trilateral agreements for mutual benefit", she added. Hundreds drown each year attempting the perilous crossing over the Mediterranean in often rickety boats.

In what was billed as a rare "informal meeting" of leaders under the auspices of the European Commission, the new Italian prime minister, Guiseppe Conte, representing his new anti-immigration populist government, presented a plan that would upend the regulations now governing migrants and asylum-seekers.

The draft conclusions included calls to speed up returns to countries tasked with processing them, such as Italy, causing anger in Rome.

Cooperation 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.

Human rights organizations have criticized the practice, alleging that migrants are abused in Libya and the North African country hardly constitutes a "safe" port of call, as called for by worldwide law.

Earlier, he said the European Union should fund efforts in Africa to stop uncontrolled migration to Europe.

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