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New deal means help for migrants rescued at sea

27 September 2019

Four EU states move away from anti-migrant stance

PA

The Ocean Viking arrives in Italy on Tuesday

The Ocean Viking arrives in Italy on Tuesday

MIGRANTS and asylum-seekers rescued in the Mediterranean will be relocated after a temporary deal was struck between France, Germany, Italy, and Malta on Monday.

The four EU nations sought to move away from the anti-migrant stance of the former Deputy Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Salvini, under whom rescue ships were blocked from Italian ports.

Under the new system, rescued migrants will be relocated to other EU member states that are volunteering shelter, after arriving at a Mediterranean port.

“Italy is no longer alone,” the new Minister of the Interior, Luciana Lamorgese, said on Monday. The agreement will be presented to the EU’s other interior ministers, in the hope of widening its scope, on 8 October. It is unlikely that other countries, such as Hungary, will take part.

Italy has previously been criticised for its treatment of migrants and refugees rescued at sea, and the NGOs that helped them (News, 5 July).

The deal was brokered by Finland, which currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency. The Interior Minister of Findland, Maria Ohisalo, said: “I find it crucial that we move away from ship-by-ship arrangements towards a more predictable solution.

“These arrangements, in order to be functional, need to be built on shared responsibility involving a sufficiently large number of member states.”

The burden for helping migrants has been on the southern European countries of Malta, Italy, and Greece in recent years, with a requirement that asylum-seekers stay in the country where they arrive.

The Interior Minister of Germany, Horst Seehofer, said: “If we had not now managed to produce a proposal with regard to the sea rescue, Europe’s common asylum policy would no longer have been possible for the foreseeable future.

“We are all of the same opinion: that there must be a distribution of refugees; that we must not leave Italy and Malta here alone; and that the amount of refugees to be admitted will be discussed and decided in Luxembourg on 8 October, because the amount depends on the number of member states taking part.”

On Tuesday, the Ocean Viking, a rescue ship with 182 people on board, was allowed to dock in the port of Messina, in Sicily.

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