Thursday 21 June 2018 - 08:04

Merkel to push for unified refugee policies Europe-wide

Story Code : 732673
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech during an event on the occasion of the World Refugee Day at the German Historical Museum in Berlin, on June 20, 2018. (Photo by AFP)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel gives a speech during an event on the occasion of the World Refugee Day at the German Historical Museum in Berlin, on June 20, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

Representatives of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Austria, and Bulgaria are expected to attend the emergency meeting on Sunday, when Merkel reportedly plans to persuade them to further curb immigration and restrict the movement of asylum seekers within the bloc, policies that would accommodate the views of disgruntled members of her own coalition.

Merkel and her European peers in Brussels will explore how to prevent people from travelling freely within the EU while their applications are being processed or after they have already claimed asylum in one of the Mediterranean states of arrival.

Such secondary movements are illegal under EU law but have been widespread since immigration to Europe peaked in 2015, when more than a million refugees arrived from the Middle East and Africa.

The leaders of the other European countries are expected to accept those policies, which would mark a success for Merkel.

“We see a strong need to significantly reduce secondary movements... by preventing unlawful crossing of internal borders between (EU) member states by irregular migrants and asylum seekers and by ensuring swift readmissions by the competent member state,” reads a draft of the statement for the Sunday meeting.

Some EU countries have been at odds over how to share the responsibility of taking care of refugees since 2015, with some eastern states led by Poland and Hungary refusing to host the new arrivals and alleviate the burden on Italy and Greece as well as wealthy countries like Germany, where most refugees hope to finally settle in.

The German leader has been given by her conservative Bavarian allies, including the Christian Social Union (CSU), a two-week deadline until an EU summit on June 28 to come up with a convincing European plan to reduce migration into Germany, otherwise they will go it alone from the beginning of July and start tightening Germany’s borders.

According to a recent poll, 75% of Germans do not have faith that Merkel will be able to secure a European response to placate the CSU.
The CSU has felt the pressure over a decision by Merkel in 2015 to allow in more than a million refugees from an unprecedented influx that hit the European shores at the time. CSU leaders argue that the liberal asylum policy has affected security in Germany while it has boosted the public standing of nationalist and far-right groups.

Merkel has admitted that there is a need for a deal that could coordinate Europe’s policy on the issue, especially at a time when the right-wing parties are on the rise in various European countries, including in Italy, a front-line nation dealing with refugees, and in Germany’s neighboring Austria, where more and more refugees are being turned away.

Conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who is in coalition with the far right in his country, said last week that he had plans to form an anti-immigration “axis” at an EU level with Germany and Italy. But while Merkel is bending under pressure from her critics, she does not hold a rigid anti-immigration stand.

Italy’s new far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini recently set off a European crisis when he closed the country’s ports to a refugee rescue ship with more than 600 people, including children, pregnant women and those in need of medical attention on board.

Spain later took in the stranded refugees but couldn’t stop France and Italy from engaging in a public quarrel over the matter.