France and Italy call for ‘automatic’ distribution of migrants across EU countries

The European Union should introduce a system which automatically distributes migrants across the EU, said the leaders of France and Italy on 18 September. 

The joint statement, made after a meeting in Rome between French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, calls for EU countries to share the responsibility for irregular migrants arriving in southern European countries.

With the proposed system, Italy could expect that incoming migrants rescued from the Mediterranean would be automatically distributed across the 28-country bloc within four weeks. It was also suggested that penalties be imposed on EU countries which refuse to take part in the distribution plan. 

“The European Union hasn’t shown enough solidarity with countries handling first arrivals, notably Italy,” Macron said. “I am convinced that an automatic European mechanism is needed for the reception of immigrants,” he added.

The two leaders met in an attempt to fix the poor relationship between their countries under Italy’s former interior minister and leader of the far-right League party, Matteo Salvini. Salvini routinely blocked charity-run vessels carrying migrants from docking at Italian ports.

“The issue of immigration must no longer fuel anti-European propaganda,” Conte said. 

The interior ministers of Germany and Malta supported the automatic redistribution scheme at a meeting with the French and Italian interior ministers on the 23 September. The four countries will bring their proposal to a larger meeting of interior ministers on 8 October. 

According to the Italian Interior Ministry, almost 1,200 migrants had reached Italian shores in the first eight days of September. This is higher than the 947 arrivals in the same period last year. However, the total number of migrants arriving in Italy since the beginning of 2019 is 70% less than January to mid-September of 2018.

TMP 25/09/2019

Photo credit: Royalty-free stock photo ID: 1477177439

Photo caption: Milan, Italy – February 16, 2017: A long queue for the Immigration Office in Milan, Italy. Italy is facing a refugee crisis due to ongoing wars in North Africa and the Middle East