The German government said it had stopped welcoming migrants from Italy as part of a voluntary European solidarity plan, in what could prove to be a new impasse over asylum seekers in the block. It comes as the Italian island of Lampedusa welcomes a record number of new arrivals.
Berlin informed Rome of its decision to postpone the reception of migrants until further notice.
“Given the strong migratory pressure currently weighing on Germany, the ongoing suspension of Dublin transfers by certain Member States, including Italy, reinforces the major challenges that Germany is currently facing in terms of capacity to reception and accommodation,” said a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior.
This voluntary program aimed to ease pressure on countries bordering the European Union, which are often the first port of call for migrants.
Under this mechanism, Germany was to receive 3,500 asylum seekers who had first sought refuge in Italy. But only 1,700 of them reached Germany before Berlin decided to suspend their arrival.
German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD/S&D) suspended the Voluntary Solidarity Mechanism (VSM) for arriving asylum seekers due to Rome’s refusal to implement the Dublin Agreement https:// t.co/UFs3P3at78
– Pieter Cleppe (@pietercleppe) September 14, 2023
Response to the Dublin Agreement
Under the so-called Dublin procedure, irregular migrants must be registered in the EU country they enter for the first time.
If they try to travel to another country in the bloc, they could be sent back to their first port of call in the EU.
But Mediterranean countries like Italy have argued that the rules impose an excessive burden on border countries, especially as new arrivals often want to move to other EU countries.
In response, Germany volunteered to take in asylum seekers, and more than a million arrived, mainly from Syria and Iraq, between 2015 and 2016, before the number of arrivals began to fall sharply.
But over the past year, authorities have again recorded a sharp increase in arrivals.
The latest figures provided by the federal police show that 15,100 irregular migrants arrived in August, an increase of 40 percent compared to 10,714 in July.
Meloni calls for help
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said Wednesday she was not surprised by Berlin’s decision.
His far-right party won elections a year ago on a promise to end mass immigration, and his government temporarily suspended the Dublin rules in December, citing “purely technical reasons” to overcrowded reception centers or hotspots.
She reiterated her call for more EU help, adding: “Our hotspots are full.” adding that the question of resettlement was secondary.
“The question is to stop arrivals in Italy. I still don’t see concrete answers,” Meloni said.
Emergency in Lampedusa
The number of migrants arriving in Italy after crossing boats from North Africa has increased this year, reaching almost 124,000 since January. This is up from 65,500 recorded during the same period in 2022, according to government data.
Many are landing on the island of Lampedusa, where the reception center warned Wednesday that it was reaching critical capacity.
Some 7,000 migrants arrived in just over 24 hours, a number several hundred larger than the island’s full-time population.
The Italian Red Cross said more than 100 landings in a matter of hours allowed it to house more than 6,000 people in a facility built for fewer than 400 people.
“The situation is difficult,” declared the association, warning against the risk of crossing a “critical threshold”.
Lampedusa authorities, including one of the mayors, Filippo Mannino, called for help.
Located just 145 kilometers from the Tunisian coast, Lampedusa is one of the first stopover points for migrants crossing the Mediterranean.
(with press wires)