Italy warns EU over refugees as neighbors block crossings

Italy stepped up calls for a change to European asylum rules on Sunday as neighboring states tightened border controls, turning back African migrants and leaving hundreds stranded at the frontier in northern Italy.
In an interview with Milanand’s Corriere della Sera daily, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said that after toppling Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the international community bore responsibility for chaos in Libya that has opened the way for hundreds of thousands of migrants to cross by boat to southern Italy.
He called for a change to the so-called Dublin regulations, which assign most asylum seekers to the EU country they first enter and said he would discuss the issue with French President Franandcois Hollande and British Prime Minister David Cameron when they visit Italy this week.
and”If the European Council chooses solidarity, then good. If it doesnand’t, we have a Plan B ready but that would be a wound inflicted on Europe,and” he said, without giving details.
Italy has long complained that its European partners are shirking their responsibilities and leaving southern Mediterranean countries to handle the migrant emergency without effective support.
In a separate interview on Sunday, Interior Minister Angelino Alfano called for other European countries to take more migrants from Italy and set up centers in Libya to identify genuine asylum seekers and send back those not qualifying.
and”Europe, signing as Europe, has to sign repatriation agreements with all the African countries,and” he said, and a failure to do so would put Italy on a confrontation course with the rest of the 28-nation EU.
h2andlsquoShow solidarityand’h2 and”If Europe does not fulfill its own responsibilities and show solidarity, it will find a different Italy facing it.and”
The angry comments, echoed by other Italian politicians and officials, underlined the growing tensions on migrant policy within the EU, which is already struggling to hold a joint line on other problems including the crises in Greece and Ukraine.
Under the Schengen treaty, free cross-border movement is normally allowed within most of the European Union but France and Austria have stepped up controls on migrants from Italy, turning back hundreds and leaving growing numbers camped out in railway stations in Rome and Milan.
Many have been prevented from entering France from the northern Italian coastal town of Ventimiglia but many have also been halted at the Austrian border near the town of Bolzano on the northeastern frontier.
and”The halt to Schengen for a few days is holding them up here but Italy isnand’t their destination,and” Renzi said.
The crisis has become one of the most pressing issues facing Renziand’s center-left led government, after the surge in support for the anti-immigration Northern League in last monthand’s regional elections.
Governors in the prosperous regions of Lombardy and Veneto, both Northern League strongholds, have resisted transfers of refugees from overcrowded reception centers in the south.
The League has leapt on fears that immigrants arriving on crowded boats from Africa could bring diseases like malaria and scabies into Italy despite reassurances from health authorities.
A recent assault on a train conductor by a gang of machete-wielding youths of Latin American origin has added further fuel to the Leagueand’s fiery rhetoric on security and immigration.
and”Have a good Saturday. Watch out for scabies, malaria and machetes,and” the Northern Leagueand’s bluntly spoken leader Matteo Salvini tweeted at the weekend.
h2Austria stops processing requestsh2 In the meantime, Austria has stopped processing asylum requests in an effort to pressure other European Union member states to do more to help absorb waves of refugees pouring into the continent, the countryand’s interior minister was quoted over the weekend as saying.
Vienna needs to and”stop the Austrian asylum expressand” and become less attractive to refugees relative to its EU peers, Johanna Mikl-Leitner told Die Presse newspaper, renewing her demand for other countries to adopt fixed quotas for taking in asylum seekers.
and”So far there have been only isolated declarations of intent that do not bring us further,and” she said ahead of a planned meeting of interior ministers from the 28-nation EU on Tuesday.
Last month the European Commission proposed to ease pressure on Italy and Greece, which are struggling to deal with thousands of immigrants crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy boats from Libya, through an emergency scheme to redistribute 40,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum-seekers throughout the EU.
But France and Germany, two of the EUand’s largest states which under the plan would together take nearly 40 percent of the migrants, have raised concerns about the Commission proposals. Britain, which has an exemption in EU matters on immigration, has said it will not participate in the scheme.
Asylum requests for Austria rose nearly 160 percent in the first four months of the year to 14,225, government data show.
Mikl-Leitner said Austria, which has resorted to housing hundreds of refugees in tents, was fastest among EU member states in handling asylum requests and thus allowing refugeesand’ families to join them.
The paper said Austria ruled on asylum requests within four months on average, while nearly half of requests in the EU took at least six months.
Austrian opposition parties and refugee support groups criticized Mikl-Leitnerand’s decision to stop processing the asylum requests as irresponsible.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman