Life preserver on a boat © Sumalee (shutterstock)
The interior ministers of Germany, Italy, France, Malta, Finland and the EU Commission will negotiate this Monday on a distribution mechanism for refugees and migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea. Five questions and answers.
Why a transitional mechanism for the distribution of refugees and migrants rescued in the Mediterranean is needed?
Time and again in recent weeks, ships from nongovernmental organizations have arrived off the coast of Italy with rescued refugees and migrants. They often had to wait weeks before Italy let them dock. The reason: EU states first had to agree on who could take in how many of those rescued. Instead of this lengthy process and countless phone calls among EU interior ministers, an automatic mechanism is now to be found. The goal is to ensure that those rescued, most of whom have had a long flight, do not have to wait on boats.
Why it is only a transition mechanism?
Since 2016, EU member states have been trying to reform the common European asylum system – also known as Dublin. Among other things, it stipulates that the EU state responsible for the asylum procedure is the one where the asylum seeker first sets foot on European soil.
As a result, these are mostly the countries at the EU’s external borders, such as Italy, Greece, Spain and Malta. In order to relieve these countries and better share the burden between EU states, this principle is to be revised. But as the reform has been blocked for years by states like Hungary, a temporary distribution mechanism is now to be found for the time being.
What are the chances for a solution?
The chances are not bad. German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) has already announced that Germany would be willing to take in a quarter of those rescued. This would be one in four and is the same proportion that Germany currently already takes in via ad hoc admission. Since July 2018, 2.200 people rescued from distress at sea in the Mediterranean. Germany agreed to take in 565 migrants and refugees.
France has shown general openness to the initiative, but has not yet specified how many people it would accept. The new government in Italy is also positive about a temporary distribution mechanism.
At the moment, possible other EU states that had recently participated in the reception of refugees and migrants, such as Ireland, Portugal, Finland or Luxembourg, are still reluctant to do so. But if there is an agreement on Monday, Germany and France are expected to once again promote the project among the other EU states.
What tricky questions are still unresolved?
What is disputed is who among the rescued should be distributed among the participating states. According to estimates by an EU diplomat, only about 20 to 30 percent of the people rescued in the Mediterranean have a chance of getting asylum in the EU. Some EU states only want to take in people with a good chance of getting asylum. But Italy fears remaining people could stay in country. One possible solution would be for teams from the EU border agency Frontex to help Italy repatriate those rescued without asylum claims.
Another controversial ie is where ships of non-governmental organizations should dock in the future. So far, it has been said that it should be the closest safe haven. Malta, for example, has proposed a rotation principle in which French ports could also be visited. In this way, the first aid for people rescued from distress at sea would be better distributed among the EU states. France, however, is skeptical of the idea.
By Franziska Broich