Italy’s PM Draghi calls on EU to revive migrant burden-sharing deal

Photo: AP

Italy is pushing EU partners to revive migrant burden-sharing deals as it seeks to stave off a summertime surge in landings from North Africa, PM Mario Draghi said on Wednesday, AFP reported. Migration has returned to the top of the political agenda in Italy after more than 2,200 asylum-seekers from Tunisia and Libya arrived on its tiny island of Lampedusa last weekend.

Draghi said "active talks are ongoing with Germany and France to revive" the so-called Malta agreement, under which a number of EU countries agreed in 2019 to share the number of migrants who arrive in Italy or Malta.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who was visiting Rome on Wednesday, said his country was ready to help. "Italy cannot be left on its own," he said after a meeting with his counterpart Luigi Di Maio.  "Germany has already in the past taken part in the relocation of refugees and we will do it again in the future [...] but we expect other partners to do the same," he added.

The Malta deal was suspended with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. "The priority in the short run is to contain migration pressure in the summer months," Draghi also said, calling for "more intense cooperation" from Libya and Tunisia and tighter controls of their land and sea borders.

On 20 May, the Italy's Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and the EU's home affairs commissioner, Ylva Johansson, are scheduled to jointly visit Tunis to tackle migration issues.

Amid criticism of Italy's cooperation with the Libyan authorities, routinely accused of exposing migrants to abuse and torture, Draghi said his country was pursuing a "balanced, effective and humane" migration policy.

Migration issues are a political minefield for the Italian premier, as his national unity government includes parties with clashing views, such as the far-right League and the centre-left Democratic Party.

So far this year, some 13,000 sea migrants have landed on Italy's shores, which is  a sizeable increase from around 4,200 and 1,100 respectively for the same period in 2020 and 2019.

 

More on this subject: Migration crisis

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