Germany, France and Italy urge review of EU asylum rules
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Berlin, Paris and Rome on Wednesday called for an overhaul of laws on the right of asylum and a fairer distribution of migrants throughout the European Union, with tens of thousands on the move across the continent.
The foreign ministers of the three countries signed a joint letter emphasising "the shortcomings" of the current European asylum system, Italy’s foreign ministry told reporters.
In the letter, signed by Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Italy’s Paolo Gentiloni and France’s Laurent Fabius, they called for "a fair distribution of refugees" throughout the EU.
"The current refugee crisis is putting the European Union and all of its member states to a historic test. Over the past weeks, this crisis has become even more dramatic," the letter read.
"Europe must protect refugees in need of protection in a humane way - regardless of which EU country they arrive in."
The document was addressed to the EU's foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, ahead of an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Friday and Saturday.
"A more efficient asylum system for persons in need of international protection goes hand-in-hand with a more efficient repatriation policy of irregular migrants at the EU level, with the aim of granting refugee status rapidly and efficiently to those who are genuinely in need of international protection," it said.
Burden on Italy and Greece
Hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing wars and economic migrants escaping poverty have arrived in the European Union in an unprecedented wave that has confounded EU leaders and fed the rise of right wing populists.
Nearly all the refugees and migrants first reach the EU's eastern and southern edges and then press on illegally for richer and more generous EU countries further north and west.
Italy has long called for an EU policy on immigration and the creation of an EU law on asylum, something that would require the reform of existing legislation.
Accords reached in Dublin in 1990 on the right of asylum oblige refugees to make their case in the first EU country they reach, where they should also be registered.
Italy and Greece, the main ports of entry for migrants crossing the Mediterranean, say the Dublin rules place the burden almost entirely on their shoulders and must be changed.
In turn, countries in northern Europe have accused Rome and Athens of failing to identify the new arrivals, allowing many to continue travelling to seek asylum elsewhere.
Germany, which is prepared to take by far the greatest number of refugees, has begun accepting asylum claims from Syrians regardless of where they entered the EU, even though undocumented migrants are barred from travel across the bloc.
That has caused confusion for neighbouring countries, which have alternated between letting migrants through and halting them.
Hungary, the main arrival point for those crossing the Balkans by land, allowed thousands to board trains for Germany on Monday but has since called a halt, resulting in chaotic scenes outside the main rail station in Budapest.it
The Czech Republic, which has also blocked the flow of migrants, said Wednesday it would stop detaining Syrian asylum seekers bound for Germany.
Italian officials said they would temporarily “reactivate” identity checks at the border with Austria, following a request from the German region of Bavaria, where a record 3,500 asylum-seekers turned up on Tuesday according to local police.
Meanwhile in New York, Russia said that the United Nations Security Council is discussing a draft resolution to address Europe’s migrant crisis, likely by authorising the inspection of suspected migrant ships.
Russian envoy Vitaly Churkin said on Wednesday that the council “may well” adopt the resolution this month.
Churkin told reporters Wednesday that the draft would be more limited than one earlier this year that would have authorised a European Union mission to inspect and seize suspected migrant smuggling ships in Libya and its territorial waters.
Instead, council members are talking about authorising such action on the high seas of the Mediterranean. That would not require the blessing of chaotic Libya, which is split into two rival governments.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP, AP)
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