EU commission unveils migrant ‘action plan’ for Italy

The European Commission unveiled a new plan to help Italy cope with a massive fresh influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea

The European Commission unveiled a new plan to help Italy cope with a massive fresh influx of migrants crossing the Mediterranean sea, mostly Africans setting sail from Libya.

The European Commission announced €35 million in extra cash for Rome in response to Italian demands that its neighbours share more of the burden of handling thousands of people coming by boat every week. It also set out a list of other measures for EU ministers to discuss on Thursday in Estonia’s capital Tallinn.

 “We will show full solidarity with Italy in this struggle,” Frans Timmermans, first vice-president of the Commission, the European Union’s executive arm, said.

“Italy has shown an unprecedented level of solidarity with the refugees in the last couple of years,” Timmermans told reporters at the European parliament reporters after the commissioners' weekly meeting.

“Now everybody needs to do their part on this across Europe.” 

Among the proposals was that Italy draft a code of conduct for non-governmental organisations (NGOs) running rescue services off Libya.

Timmermans said that this was in part because their activities might be a "pull factor" - encouraging people to risk their lives in flimsy dinghies in the hope of being picked up and then ferried over to Italy.

He said the Commission proposals were meant to reduce the pressure on Italy which has accepted some 85,000 of the 100,000 migrants who have landed in Europe so far this year.

Nearly 2,250 have died making the perilous crossing, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). 

Tensions spiked on Monday as Austria threatened to close its border with Italy to avoid a repeat of 2015 and 2016, when hundreds of thousands of migrants coming landed in Greece from Turkey and then set off for wealthier countries to the north, such as Germany.

Under the EU’s asylum policy, asylum seekers are supposed to be processed in the country where they first arrive. But the numbers have been so great that authorities cannot cope.

Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker won agreement for other EU states to take about 160,000 of the arrivals for processing but so far only about 20,000 have been dealt with in this way.

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