Germany clinches a deal with Italy to return migrants

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

After weeks of negotiations Germany finalized an agreement with Italy to return migrants who are intercepted at the German border, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said on Thursday, DPA reported. "The deal with Italy is closed. It is just missing two signatures, from the Italian colleague and from me," Seehofer told the German parliament, in reference to his counterpart, Matteo Salvini.

An Italian Interior Ministry source said Salvini would discuss the issue with Seehofer on Friday in Vienna, where both ministers are expected to attend an EU conference, and clarified the concept of "zero net effect." The ministry source explained that for 100 migrants returned from Germany to Italy, 100 migrants presently in Italy would have to be redistributed to other EU nations, leading to a "zero" net change in Italian migrant numbers. Salvini has said that he would sign a deal with Germany only if it did not lead to Italy "having to take care of a single additional migrant."

Italy has been a first port for many migrants coming to the EU, and the bloc's rules stipulate that incomers should seek asylum in the first EU country they set foot in. But many migrants after arrival in Italy went to Germany. Earlier this year, Chancellor Angela Merkel avoided the break-up of her coalition and promised deals to send back migrants to the EU nations where they first registered as asylum seekers. Seehofer, a hardliner on migration, had threatened to start unilaterally turning away migrants at Germany's southern border in what Merkel feared would have created tensions with neighbouring countries. So far Berlin has managed to clinch return agreements with Portugal, Spain and Greece.


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