Majority of French ‘reject safe harbour for Aquarius migrants’
A majority of French citizens support the government's decision not to offer safe harbour to a ship carrying 630 rescued migrants after Italy refused to let it dock, an opinion poll released Monday showed.
Published: 18 June 2018 14:21 CEST
Migrant ship Aquarius. Photo: AFP
Fifty-six percent of respondents said they backed the government, while 42 percent said it should have offered to let the ship dock, according to the OpinionWay poll.
The Aquarius, run by French charity SOS Mediterranee, was eventually allowed to dock in Spain on Sunday after being stranded for days while both Italy and Malta refused to let the migrants ashore.
Local leaders on the French island of Corsica had offered to welcome the Aquarius, but the move was slapped down by the central government, which argued that under international law the ship had to dock at the closest port.
Tensions flared after President Emmanuel Macron accused Rome of “irresponsibility”, although he later said he had not meant to offend France's southern neighbour.
Macron is under pressure to close down migration routes from Africa amid strong anti-immigration sentiment in his country.
France has said it will examine asylum requests from Aquarius migrants who want to come over from Spain on a “case-by-case basis”, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said Sunday, although he did not know how many might make the requests.
Rome's decision put the migrant influx back to the fore ahead of a EU summit on June 28-29, where leaders are supposed to hammer out an overhaul of
the bloc's asylum rules.
The OpinionWay poll was carried out among 1,020 adults online from June 13-15.
How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system,
urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.
Published: 4 February 2022 10:09 CET
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP
The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.
In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.
EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.
Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.
“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.
The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.
A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”
Step by step
The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.
“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.
“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.
“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”
A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.
That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.
France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.
It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.
Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.
Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.
She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.
Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.
But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.
France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.
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