European Union: Crisis meeting: New wave of refugees makes EU nervous

The interior ministers of the EU meet because of the increasing number of refugees. Germany also has to face allegations. How is the situation?

A boat accident occurs off the Greek island of Kos, followed by a dramatic chase. tractor want to bring eleven refugees from Turkey to the Greek Aegean island, but their boat capsizes two kilometers off the coast. One refugee drowns, the others are saved by a patrol from the EU border protection force Frontex. When the smugglers try to flee to Turkey in a speedboat, they are stopped by the border guards after a wild chase with warning shots.

The incident a few days ago, which Frontex is now reporting on, highlights the delicate situation Europe’s southern border: The migration pressure promoted by smugglers has increased massively in recent months – and is now also alarming the European Union.

EU crisis meeting could end in dispute

At a Crisis meeting on Friday in Brussels German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) and her EU colleagues want to discuss the situation. Disputes between interior ministers are inevitable: the new wave of refugees is dividing Europe. The trend is clear: According to Frontex, 280,000 people illegally crossed the southern EU external borders from January to October, 73 percent more than in the previous year.

The greatest pressure is on the western Balkan route, but 35,000 people also traveled via the eastern Mediterranean (120 percent more than in the same period last year). 90,000 people traveled the central Mediterranean route from Libya or Tunisia, mainly to Italy, an increase of 60 percent. According to the UN refugee aid more than a thousand people have died trying to escape across the Mediterranean this year.

In Germany this year 40 percent more asylum applications

“We cannot continue to act from crisis to crisis,” warns the Vice President of the EU Commission, Margaritis Schinas, in the run-up to the ministerial meeting. Schinas is pushing for the EU migration pact proposed by the Commission to finally be approved: more external border protectionrapid deportation of hopeless asylum seekers, a solidarity distribution of the other refugees.

But an agreement on the proposals is not in sight, the EU countries are hopelessly divided. Greece, Italy and the other countries at the southern EU external border They help themselves by, contrary to the legal situation, allowing many refugees to continue their journey so that they can apply for asylum elsewhere – including in Germany, where 160,000 initial applications were registered by October.

That is 40 percent more than in the previous year, although still a far cry from the situation during the 2015 refugee crisis.

Countries expand external border protection on their own

But nerves are on edge in many capitals because of the general crisis and because millions of refugees from Ukraine have to be cared for at the same time. The governments of the EU countries Austria and Hungary have just announced that they will massively expand external border protection together with accession candidate Serbia.

“That asylum system of the EU has failed,” complained Austria’s Chancellor Karl Nehammer.

Dealing with that rescue ship “Ocean Viking”, which was rejected by Italy and was allowed to land in Toulon in southern France with its 234 refugees after a long tug-of-war, has led to a rift between the governments in Rome and Paris.

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EU: Possibly new rules for private sea rescue

The crisis meeting was convened mainly at her insistence, at which EU Interior Commissioner Ylva Johansson presented an action plan for the central Mediterranean: Cooperation with countries of origin and transit is to be intensified. For private sea rescue ships there might be specific guidelines.

In addition, the voluntary distribution of refugees within the EU is to be accelerated. “A clear majority of people arriving via the central Mediterranean route do not need one international protection“, says Johansson. Most of the people from Egypt, Tunisia and Bangladesh want to earn money in the EU, but have no chance of asylum.

Therefore have it “very high priority”to discourage people from boarding the tug boats.

Italy: EU has not kept promises to take in refugees

Italy’s new right-wing government has a different priority: it wants the private rescue ships no longer to be in Italian ports invest. Rome complains that previous commitments by other EU countries to take in refugees have not been kept.

Around a dozen countries agreed in June on a “voluntary solidarity mechanism” to resettle 8,000 illegalized people from Italy and other arrival countries. Germany and France wanted with each 3500 refugees shoulder the largest share. But so far only about a hundred people have been admitted, which, according to Berlin, is also due to the complex procedure.

Now the federal government, diplomatically dressed up, is insisting on something in return: Germany will take on the refugees when Italy reliably reopens its ports for private rescue ships. Both belong together, according to government circles. Berlin is under pressure because it has just decided to support the United4Rescue association for private sea rescue in the Mediterranean with two million euros.

That German commitment met with outrage, especially in Italy. Not a good omen for the crisis meeting. To be on the safe side, EU officials are dampening expectations: decisions by the EU states will probably not be made until December.

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