Italy balks at commission’s offer saying it doesn’t want ‘charity’ to accept migrants arriving from the Mediterranean.
by Al Jazeera
The European Commission has offered to bear the cost of taking in migrants from boats in the Mediterranean, seeking to entice more governments to shoulder the burden after Italy’s new government closed its ports to rescue vessels.
In a proposal published on Tuesday, the commission said it would pay 6,000 euros ($7,010) for each migrant taken in by EU member states, as well as funding the cost of hundreds of personnel to process mostly African migrants seeking asylum in Europe.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini denounced the offer as far too little.
“We aren’t asking for charity handouts. Every asylum seeker costs the Italian taxpayer between 40,000 and 50,000 euros ($46,700 and $58,400). Brussels, they can keep their charity for themselves,” Salvini told reporters. “We don’t want money. We want dignity.”
The commission’s plan, which is aimed at EU governments that set up processing centres on their soil, follows a June leaders’ summit that claimed success in reaching a hard-fought agreement to control immigration but left many details unresolved.
Undocumented migration has fallen steeply since 2015 when more than one million people entered the EU, but polls show it is still a top concern for many of the union’s 500 million citizens.
The governments of Italy and Germany are under heavy pressure at home to ensure fewer migrants come to their territory from across the Mediterranean Sea, while Eastern European leaders are bitterly opposed to taking them in.
Italy has shut its ports to humanitarian rescue ships, saying it is bearing an unfair burden of asylum seekers.
By publishing its proposals, Natasha Berthaud, a European Commission spokeswoman, said it was seeking “a truly shared regional responsibility in responding to complex migration challenges”, although governments have yet to come forward to host new processing centres.
EU envoys are expected to discuss the proposal on Wednesday, with another meeting planned in Geneva on July 30.