EU interior ministers seek solution on Mediterranean migrant rescue

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Helsinki – EU interior ministers are due on Thursday to take a new stab at efforts to reform the bloc’s migration policy, with the issue mired in disagreement over who should take responsibility for new arrivals to the bloc.

Ahead of the meeting, German Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer said he would seek a “temporary arrangement” to distribute migrants rescued from the Mediterranean Sea.

However, he expressed scepticism early on Thursday of reaching a deal.

Late on Wednesday, a group of member states had held initial talks on the plan, spearheaded also by France.

But not even 10 of the EU’s 28 member states had offered to take in migrants, Luxembourg Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn,said after the talks, which are set to continue on Thursday.

EU member states have long grappled with a common response to migration inflows from northern Africa via the Mediterranean.

In the past, Italy has taken in most arrivals, but Rome’s populist government started putting its foot down in 2018, demanding that other member states accept their fair share.

Italian Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, who leads the far-right League, is putting in a rare appearance at the informal talks in Helsinki.

Seehofer backed away on Wednesday from espousing a firm intake quota for certain countries, to prevent the impression of a “de facto border opening.”

Rescued migrants should be taken to a secure port, Seehofer said, while adding that “it doesn’t necessarily have to be a European port.”

The issue makes headlines whenever Italy closes its ports to rescue vessels.

Rome caused an uproar by filing criminal charges against the German captain of a rescue ship who took 40 migrants to Italy in June.

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