Sunday, June 24, 2018

Macron Threatens Sanctions Against EU States That Turn Migrants Away

Macron backs sanctions on EU states that refuse migrants

"We can not have countries that benefit hugely from EU solidarity and claim national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants," he said at a press conference in Paris alongside Spain's new Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez.
"I am in favour of sanctions being imposed in the event of no cooperation," he said.
On the eve of a mini-summit about the divisive migration issue, the two leaders also declared support for the creation of closed reception centres where migrants would be held while their asylum claims are considered.
The centres would be set up near to where migrants often arrive first in Europe.
"Once on European soil, we are in favour of setting up closed centres in accordance with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees)... so that each country takes people who are entitled to asylum in an organised way," Macron said.
There are currently no closed migrant centres where applications are processed, with the exception of a few cases in Greece and Italy managed by the UNHCR.
For migrants not entitled to asylum, they should be returned directly to their country of origin and not via other countries, Macron added.
But Macron's comments drew a scathing response from Italy's new populist government.
Far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini denounced Macron's "arrogance" over the migrant issue.
"Six-hundred-and-fifty thousand landings in four years, 430,000 applications..., 170,000 apparent refugees currently housed in hotels, buildings and apartments at a cost exceeding five billion euros,"Salvini said on Saturday.

According to the French president, financial sanctions should be introduced against EU members that refuse migrants who have proven asylum status.

Speaking to reporters Saturday at a joint press conference with Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Macron stressed that Paris could not accept a situation where "countries that benefit massively from EU solidarity" give in to "national self-interest when it comes to the issue of migrants."

According to Macron, Paris and Madrid favor the setting up of "closed centers" on European soil for recently-landed migrants which would take on refugees in a 'coordinated way', allowing for a speedy investigation of whether or not they qualify for asylum status. These centers, created in cooperation with the UN Refugee Agency, would be based closest to where the migrants or refugees landed, the president said. For those applicants who are not eligible for asylum status, Macron emphasized the need for European-level cooperation to send these people back to their country of origin directly, rather than via transit countries.

Macron stressed that he was in favor of "sanctions mechanisms" in cases of non-cooperation, including possible restrictions on structural EU-level ai

The president's remarks come on the eve of an EU-level summit on immigration set to be held in Brussels on Sunday. The leaders of the Visegrad Group of countries, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia refused to participate in the working meeting, complaining that such meetings should be organized by the European Council, not by the European Commission. 

The European Union has faced major political divisions over member countries' response to the mass influx of immigrants and refugees which began in 2015, with the EU's Eastern European members refusing to accept migrants on a mass scale and balking at the idea of refugee quotas. The current crisis is the most serious migration-related issue Europe has faced since the Second World War, and stems from the armed conflicts and economic problems plaguing a number of countries of Africa and the Middle East.

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