European Union leaders have claimed success in overcoming major differences over how to control the arrival of refugees.
After nine hours of talks in Brussels, EU leaders reached consensus on sharing out refugees arriving in the bloc on a voluntary basis and establishing “controlled centers” within the EU to process asylum applications. The agreement, however, faced criticism as hard to implement and a potential threat to human rights.
EU leaders agreed to share responsibility for refugees rescued at sea, which was a key demand from Italy’s new Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, who declared: “Italy is not alone anymore.”
The leaders also agreed to look into setting up sites around the Mediterranean, both inside and outside the EU, to handle asylum claims and send back those whose requests fail. EU officials insist such places would not amount to “camps”.
While the influx of refugees has slowed in recent years, there are still daily accounts of disasters as asylum seekers make the perilous journey to Europe to flee wars and conflicts.
On Friday, Libyan coastguard said nearly 100 refugees were thought to have drowned in the Mediterranean off Tripoli.
United Nations aid agencies gave the EU deal a cautious welcome, with Charlie Yaxley of the refugee agency UNHCR saying: “We will welcome any outcome that leads to a more collaborative and harmonized approach to asylum, also one that has at its core and priority saving lives at sea.”
But humanitarian aid groups expressed concerns that the EU agreement is a political smoke screen aimed at addressing the fears of resurgent anti-immigration parties across Europe.
“At a time when EU leadership on global issues is needed more than ever, European heads of state and government continue to try to offload their responsibilities onto poorer countries outside the EU,” Oxfam migration policy adviser Raphael Shilhav emphasized.
He further underlined it appears the EU is planning more “de facto detention centers” and cautioned that “this approach to migration is a recipe for failure, and directly threatens the rights of women, men and children on the move.”
Imogen Sudbery at the International Rescue Committee further stated that the new “disembarkation platforms” raise more questions than answers.
“Would this approach be compatible with international law?” she asked.
“Would those apprehended be transferred to the nearest safe port? Crucially, under which country’s law would claims be assessed? Who would be responsible for those whose claims are upheld? We need clarity on this,” she said.
Conte, whose government includes the anti-establishment 5-Star movement and far-right League, had earlier refused to endorse a summit text on security and trade until other leaders had pledged to help Italy manage Mediterranean arrivals.
Meanwhile, Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, whose League party campaigned to bar refugees fleeing Africa and expel those already in Italy, said he was “satisfied and proud of our government’s results in Brussels.”
“Finally Europe has been forced to discuss an Italian proposal … [and] finally Italy is no longer isolated and has returned to being a protagonist,” he declared in a statement.
In a final statement full of convoluted language designed to appease the divergent views, the leaders agreed to restrict migrant moves within the bloc, but made clear virtually all of their pledges would be carried out on a “voluntary basis” by member states. They also agreed to tighten their external border and increase financing for Turkey, Morocco and other North African states to prevent migration to Europe.
source: press tv