Germany lambastes ‘shameful’ handling of migration by EU

Updated 08 Jul 2020

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Unaccompanied refugee minors board an Aegean Airlines aircraft that will transfer them to Portugal under a European Commission-funded relocation programme at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens on Tuesday. —Reuters
Unaccompanied refugee minors board an Aegean Airlines aircraft that will transfer them to Portugal under a European Commission-funded relocation programme at the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens on Tuesday. —Reuters

BRUSSELS: It is “shameful” that the European Union has still not found a solution for the care of asylum seekers five years after the migration crisis, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, whose country holds the EU Presidency, said on Tuesday.

Seehofer was speaking at a video meeting of EU interior ministers as almost 200 migrants rescued by humanitarian aid boat Ocean Viking disembarked in Sicily after nine days stuck in the Mediterranean Sea.

“Each boat requires painstaking efforts to achieve a distribution (of migrants) among member states,” said Seehofer. “And each time, only a small number (of the member states) is ready to do so.

“In the long term, we cannot leave Italy, Malta, Greece or Spain alone to deal with this issue,” he added, lamenting that “very many member states refuse to get involved”.

“This is a situation that is not worthy of the EU.” Germany, France, Italy and Malta agreed last September on a temporary mechanism, based on a voluntary basis, for the distribution of migrants rescued at sea.

So far however, only a few countries such as Portugal, Luxembourg and Ireland have joined the initiative.

Seehofer is counting on persuasion to get more member states involved, but acknowledged that the task was “very, very difficult”.

And while he did not rule out the use of pressure tactics, he did not want to elaborate.

“I am not going to start the discussion during this EU Presidency with threats... I am counting on the strength of arguments, but I am not naive,” he said.

The commission is due to present in September a long-awaited and repeatedly postponed proposal for the reform of migration and asylum policy in the EU.

Greece relocates group of young refugees to Portugal

Greece moved 25 unaccompanied minors from overcrowded migrant camps to Portugal on Tuesday as part of a relocation programme to EU countries. The boys, all aged between 15 and 17, had lived in refugee camps on outlying Greek islands. They have no relatives in Europe.

Hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees fleeing conflict and poverty countries used Greece as a springboard to European countries in 2015 and 2016, when an EU-brokered accord with Turkey all but halted the flow, trapping many in Greece.

At least 5,200 migrant children from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Africa currently live in Greece, many of them in harsh conditions.

Published in Dawn, July 8th, 2020