A draft accord from the European Union would relocate 40,000 refugees “in clear need of international protection” and who are at present in Greece and Italy, according to a draft document obtained by ANSA Monday. EU members were expected to agree on the “temporary and exceptional” relocation to other European countries “by the end of July”, according to the draft. It is expected to be approved at an EU summit of leaders set for Thursday and Friday. “Effective policies on repatriation, reintegration and readmission” for migrants who are not refugees and therefore not entitled to international protection “are an essential part of fighting illegal immigration and helping discourage people from risking their lives,” said the draft. The draft document also says that EU member nations can decide how to redistribute the refugees among themselves but with a time restriction of one month, sources told ANSA. “All States will decide by the end of July,” says the draft aimed at overcoming conflicts among EU members after some balked at being ordered to accept a set number of refugees. Sources said the new approach with the one-month deadline will likely be better accepted.
Also on Monday, Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said “solidarity is not optional” when it comes to Italy’s appeals for help from the EU in handling the Mediterranean migrant crisis. The minister added that the launch of the EUNAVFOR naval operation targeting migrant traffickers was only a “part” of the European initiative on migrants. He stressed that it was “fundamental” that this week’s EU summit reaches a “binding” agreement on the relocation of asylum seekers within the Union.
In a related move, European High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini announced that EU foreign ministers on Monday approved the launch of the first phase of the EUNAVFOR naval mission to combat migrant traffickers in the southern Mediterranean. The mission is part of the European Commission’s Agenda on Migration, a response to Italy’s appeals for help in dealing with the Mediterranean migrant crisis. “The target is the traffickers, not the migrants,” said Mogherini. Italian Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti said EUNAVFOR is a good beginning, but Italy still carries too heavy a load in terms of settling migrants who, in most cases, arrive by sea on Italy’s southernmost shores.
“The issue of security in the Mediterranean, which so far has been a burden on Italian shoulders, is now shared,” she said, adding that the budget for the EU’s Triton patrol-and-rescue mission has been tripled to nine million euros. “Some steps are being taken, but it is not enough,” Pinotti said. Also on Monday, Agrigento prosecutors opened a murder and attempted murder investigation against unknowns after a 33-year-old Gambian migrant was injured by gunfire following an exchange in which the inflatable he was traveling in along with 150 others was accosted by a Libyan Coast Guard cutter with armed men demanding money, ANSA sources said. The survivor, who was helicoptered to hospital on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa, told Italian investigators the men shot one fellow passenger dead and wounded him when the migrants resisted the robbery attempt.
The fatal victim’s body has not been found.
A Libyan Coast Guard officer denied that any of his men or the Libyan Navy could have opened fire on a migrant vessel.
“The Libyan Coast Guard never fires on migrant boats and the Libyan Navy did not fire either,” Colonnel Reda Issa told ANSA on the phone.