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EU to hold mini-summit on Sunday as more migrants arrive on European shores

The arrival of more than one million people in 2015, most fleeing conflict in Syria and Iraq, exposed glaring deficiencies in EU migrant reception capacities and asylum laws

AP | PTI  |  Brussels 

A migrant, who is part of a group intercepted aboard a dinghy off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea, is helped by a rescuer after arriving on a rescue boat at the port of Malaga, Spain June 22, 2018
A migrant, who is part of a group intercepted aboard a dinghy off the coast in the Mediterranean Sea, is helped by a rescuer after arriving on a rescue boat at the port of Malaga, Spain June 22, 2018

leaders on Sunday will try to find common ground for tackling migrants arriving on Europe's shores in search of better lives - a growing political crisis threatening to undermine the entire EU project.

The leaders of about 16 countries - more than half the 28-nation bloc - will take part in what is being billed as "informal talks" in Brussels, ahead of a full EU summit on June 28-29, where will top the agenda.

German said yesterday that the meeting involves "talking with particularly affected nations about all problems connected with " She said the hope is to see if "we can reach bi-, tri- or even multinational agreements to better solve certain problems."

The arrival of more than one million people in 2015, most fleeing conflict in and Iraq, exposed glaring deficiencies in EU migrant reception capacities and asylum laws. It has fueled tensions among member states, and anti-migrant parties have won votes by fomenting public fears of foreigners.

At the heart of the problem lie deep divisions over who should take responsibility for arriving migrants - often countries like Italy, and increasingly - how long they should be required to accommodate them, and what should be done to help those EU countries hardest hit.

The problem was crystalised last week in a row between Italy's new populist government, and over who should take responsibility for 630 people rescued from the Sea off the coast of Libya, the main departure point for people trying to reach

Amid the mud-slinging, Spain's new agreed to take charge of the migrants.

By Friday, hardline Italian was again demanding that Malta, the EU's smallest country, allow a rescue ship carrying hundreds of migrants to land because it was in the island's waters.

Like everything to do with migrants in lately, even this meeting is proving controversial. What started as talks between half a dozen leaders now involves at least 16, as demanded to take part. Four countries in - the Czech Republic, Hungary, and - refuse to attend.

Referring to hasty arrangements and a domestic crisis over policies within Merkel's coalition government, the fervently anti-migrant Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban, said: "We understand that countries have domestic political difficulties, but this can't result in pan-European confusion." "This is an open invitation. Nobody is excluded, everybody is invited. Nobody is forced to attend either," said Alexander Winterstein, for the European Commission, where the talks will take place.

With plans to reform Europe's asylum laws bogged down, EU leaders will in coming days affirm their intention to stop migrants leaving north African shores by paying countries like Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and to hold people until their eligibility for asylum can be established.

First Published: Sat, June 23 2018. 16:15 IST
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