Germany to press for EU deal on taking in rescued migrants

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Migrants arrive at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing on a dinghy the Aegean sea from Turkey on Monday, March 2, 2020. Thousands of migrants and refugees massed at Turkey’s western frontier, trying to enter Greece by land and sea after Turkey said its borders were open to those hoping to head to Europe. (AP Photo/Michael Varaklas)

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s interior minister called on his European Union colleagues Tuesday to agree on a better and more just solution for the distribution of migrants rescued while attempting to cross the Mediterranean.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said ahead of a video conference with his EU counterparts that all European member states need to take in rescued migrants. Germany has long pushed for quotas so that all of the bloc’s 27 members accept some of the migrants that initially land in Italy, Malta or Greece, but many countries refuse to take any rescued migrants.

“When a ship arrives, there are phone calls across all of Europe: ‘who is willing to take them,’” Seehofer told German public broadcaster ARD. Germany has taken some of those migrants in the past, but insists that all EU countries participate.

Earlier this week, a rescue ship with 180 migrants was allowed to sail to an Italian port after being denied entry for days. By early Tuesday, the migrants were allowed to leave the rescue ship that had docked in Sicily and transfer to a quarantine ship.

Many of the migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, smuggled via Libya and other northern African countries on flimsy dinghies or rickety fishing boats, are fleeing poverty, not war or persecution, and are ultimately found ineligible for asylum. Many come from sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite diplomatic efforts by EU authorities in Brussels to encourage countries to share the burden of caring for some of the asylum-seekers, only a handful of member nations have agreed on a voluntary basis to accept a share of migrants rescued on the Mediterranean.

Germany, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, is trying to push again for a solution of the migrant problem.

“We are not just an economic and a security union, but also a community of values,” Seehofer said. “And I’m convinced that rescuing people from dying by drowning also belongs to our community of values.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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