Federal Minister of the Interior Horst Seehofer poses for a group photo at a virtual meeting with the European justice and interior ministers in the context of the German EU Council presidency due to the Corona crisis in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, July 7, 2020. (Fabrizio Bensch/Pool via AP)

Germany presses for EU deal on taking in rescued migrants

July 07, 2020 - 11:33 am

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.

Seehofer said later Tuesday after conferring with his EU colleagues that it was a “very constructive exchange of views.” He added: “I think we will get a greater readiness in Europe to show solidarity if we succeed in showing the member states that there is a long-term solution.”

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 ahead of the talks. “And I'm convinced that rescuing people from dying by drowning also belongs to our community of values.”

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