EU unity in tatters: Member states ignore Italy’s call for help to relocate asylum seekers

Migrant rescue ship arrives in Valetta with 243 asylum seekers

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In a massive blow for EU solidarity, the European Commission has appealed for national governments to help Rome. The call for help comes after more than 1,400 people arrived on the Italian island of Lampedusa. Offers of assistance have been pitiful, with Ireland proposing to take in just 10 people on May 20.

Dublin’s offer was matched by Lithuania, while Luxembourg has also expressed an interest in helping out.

Lithuanian prime minister Ingrid Simonyte said her decision to take in asylum seekers was linked to “an increased illegal migration via Belarus”.

Vilnius is concerned people could begin fleeing the last European dictatorship as the situation in Belarus becomes more rancorous.

A European Commission spokesman said: “Discussions are still ongoing, and we encourage member states to show solidarity and participate in relocation efforts.”

If arrivals in Italy were shared equally amongst member states, each nation would take in around 50 people.

But there is now expected to be a massive fight over the issue, with previous political attempts to relocate asylum seekers being met with resistance.

The lack of solidarity for Italy does not bode well for the likes of Greece and Malta, amid further speculation of another summer of arrivals into the bloc.

Between January and April, the total number of crossings via the Western Mediterranean route has more than doubled to 11,600.

Filippo Grandi, the United Nations’ refugee chief, said the arrivals should be manageable between EU member states.

He said: “What we need is a more predictable, more efficient, state-led mechanism to rescue people at sea.”

Many people attempting to make the dangerous crossing to Europe are expected to be returned to Libya.

The African state’s coast guard, which is financed by the European Commission, intercepted more than 10,300 people last year.

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Almost 500 were returned in a six-day period in late May.

This year, 800 people have died attempting to make the treacherous crossing, according to the International Organisation for Migration.

Italy’s PM Mario Draught is piling pressure on Libya to prevent departures.

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Last week, he met with Libyan counterpart Abdulhamid Dabaiba, who heads the country’s unity government, in Rome.

Mr Draghi said: “Italy will continue to do its part in terms of resources and training capacities, but determined and rapid EU action is needed.”

He insisted Rome would seek to ensure the issue of migration is back on the agenda at the next EU summit in June.

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