Austria, Italy propose holding migrants on ships for screening

0
216

Austria and Italy’s far-right interior ministers suggested that the European Union hold migrants rescued at sea on ships for days while an initial screening of their chances of obtaining asylum is carried out.

Far-right parties like Italy’s League and Austria’s Freedom Party have long pushed for a system where migrants rescued while attempting the dangerous Mediterranean crossing be taken back to Africa rather than brought to Europe, where they can stay while their asylum claims are processed.

“For those who manage to make it into a European state’s territorial waters and are then picked up by a ship, we should use the ships to carry out the appropriate checks on whether they deserve protection,” Austrian Interior Minister Herbert Kickl told a joint news conference in Vienna with his visiting Italian counterpart.

For those who manage to make it into a European state’s territorial waters and are then picked up by a ship, we should use the ships to carry out the appropriate checks on whether they deserve protection.

Italy has become the main route into Europe for hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers arriving by sea since the other main route from Turkey to Greece was largely shut in 2016.

Although numbers have dropped over the past year, Italy’s new populist government has made shutting down the route a policy priority.

Migration dominated last year’s parliamentary election in Austria, which took in more than 1 percent of its population in asylum seekers in 2015.

The conservative-led government has pledged to prevent another such influx, even if that means restricting border crossings from Italy.

Kickl’s suggestion was aimed at offering an alternative to a proposal for “regional disembarkation platforms” at Mediterranean ports from where arrivals would be spread around the EU a proposal that seems unlikely to be put into effect.

“You are well looked after on a ship,” Kickl said at a migration conference he hosted, adding that after a screening that “should last a few days” those with no chance of asylum should be denied access to Europe.

Hauwa Mustapha