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No quick fix to Europe migration challenge

China Daily | Updated: 2018-07-05 07:34

BRUSSELS - Planned new centers around the Mediterranean to handle migrants will be no silver-bullet solution to the European Union's immigration challenge, says a UN agency of the idea it will be asked to implement.

The agency also said on Tuesday that migrants and refugees entering Europe by sea in 2018 has reached 45,808 people and the hot-button issue is driving the EU's political agenda.

Last week, EU states agreed to tighten their external borders and spend more in the Middle East and North Africa to bring down the number of arrivals.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, trying to save her coalition, on Monday agreed to set up migrant camps on the German border, highlighting how the EU is unable to agree on joint migration policies and governments increasingly go it alone.

One thing EU leaders have agreed is to look at setting up "disembarkation platforms" to handle those rescued from the dangerous crossing. Most are brought ashore in Italy, but 1,405 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean this year.

"The Mediterranean is a shared space, north-south. We have a joint responsibility to govern what happens in that space, including avoiding that people drown," Eugenio Ambrosi, the head of the International Organization for Migration's EU mission told Reuters.

'A political issue'

The IOM and its sister UN agency for refugees, the UNHCR, would assist in running the new sites.

Ambrosi said 10 existing migrant centers in Greece and Italy could first be beefed up and new ones could then be added in Malta. But opening others on the southern rim of the Mediterranean - as some EU states want - would take time.

"Before going outside of Europe, asking other countries to help, we have to make sure that enough European countries help each other," Ambrosi said in an interview. Eventually, depending on where in the Mediterranean they were rescued, people would be taken to EU or African centers.

The much-publicized idea of Mediterranean camps would only work together with opening up more legal ways to get to Europe from non-EU countries, Ambrosi said.

EU states would have to share out legitimate asylum-seekers from the centers, an idea that has divided them bitterly since 2015.

As more than 1 million people entered the EU in 2015, overwhelming Italy, Greece and Germany, Eastern European nations led by Poland and Hungary refused to help by taking in a share.

With this internal dispute still festering, the EU will turn to Tunisia and Morocco to host new sites. The African countries have a good opportunity to bargain hard.

Ambrosi said he opposed locating migrant centers in strifetorn Libya and said populists in the EU failed to recognize how far the number of arrivals had dropped since 2015.

"It's not a migration issue, it's a political and functioning-of-the-EU issue," he said. "There is no quick fix, there has never been."

Xinhua - Reuters

No quick fix to Europe migration challenge

(China Daily 07/05/2018 page11)

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