Migrant issue: EU pledges solidarity as Italy demands concrete action

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Brussels, June 28 (IANS/AKI) Italy will receive solidarity from the European Union on redistributing across the 28-nation bloc the influx of migrants arriving from Africa, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Italy’s populist Premier Giuseppe Conte, who arrived here for a key summit of EU heads of state and government, stressed that frontline states like Italy need “concrete action” on migration from other EU countries, not just statements of solidarity.

“We must show solidarity. I have been pushing for this for years and it will happen,” Juncker said on the sidelines of the key summit at which the controversial issue of migration will be a central topic.

Italy is the main arrival state for boat migrants from Africa and Conte could refuse to sign off on the EU summit conclusions if other states refuse to take in a share of asylum-seekers under a quota system.

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Despite a sharp fall in arrivals by sea compared with the last two years, over 16,500 migrants have reached Italy this year and more than 700,000 have landed since 2014. Its new hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is now taking a tough stance, refusing charity rescue ships entry to Italian ports and threatening to deport half a million illegal immigrants.

European Council President Donald Tusk has called for the summit on Thursday and Friday to agree to “regional disembarkation platforms” outside of Europe to weed out economic migrants from refugees, a dedicated EU budget for migration control, and more funding for the Libyan coastguard.

Liberal democracy is at stake in Europe unless nations swiftly secure borders and stop the wave of illegal immigration, Tusk warned in a letter.

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Conte, meanwhile, said: “Italy has developed a plan to manage migrant flows which it is bringing to this European Council meeting.”

“We believe the plan to be totally reasonable because it fully conforms to the spirit and principles on which the EU is founded,” he added.

Italy and Conte himself had received “many manifestations of solidarity” in meetings with European leaders but now these statements needed to be “transformed into action,” he said.

“We expect these words to be transformed into action. This is the perfect opportunity,” he underlined.

Migration is to be a central topic at the European Council summit taking place on Thursday and Friday as Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel fights for her political survival over the issue.

–IANS/AKI

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