Why is Rome refusing to compromise on migration?

There is finally some movement in the stalled negotiations over a European refugee policy: Fourteen EU states are backing a German-French proposal for compromise on how to distribute migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, with eight of them even promising active engagement. But Italy is refusing to agree to the solution. Commentators see this as a huge stumbling block.

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L'Humanité (FR) /

Key countries blocking

Unfortunately the two most important countries are refusing to collaborate, L'Humanité laments:

“The compromise that was worked out at Paris and Berlin's behest can only be effective if Italy and Malta open their ports to all ships that rescue refugees from the Mediterranean. Italy's Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who doesn't want his country to be 'ordered around', reacted immediately. The far-right leader has rejected the agreement and accused its initiators of wanting to turn Italy into 'Europe's refugee camp'.”

Avvenire (IT) /

Salvini exploiting the refugee crisis

Salvini needs the refugee problem for his never-ending election campaign, Avvenire fumes:

“The interior minister has no intention of reaching a European agreement on asylum. ... It's clear that he considers it more profitable to revive nationalism, reinforce his inhumane 'closed ports' policy and direct people's anger towards the NGOs and solidarity networks. ... So Salvini has a vested interest in not letting the spectre of a 'refugee invasion' and 'step-mother Europe' come to rest and is thus rejecting joint solutions with the countries with which we are allied.”

Corriere del Ticino (CH) /

The Dublin Regulation is obsolete

Salvini is right to call for a radical overhaul of the Dublin Regulation, which to date puts the responsibility with the country in which the refugees first arrive, Corriere del Ticino counters:

“The agreement was signed in 1990, a few months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and under pressure from Germany. ... Today, however, the problem is unregulated mass migration across the Mediterranean and the Balkans and the contract no longer works in this completely new context. First of all we are not talking about a few hundred irregular migrants from Eastern Europe but thousands from African and Asia. Secondly, the majority of them who want to get to Europe are not political but economic refugees. So the country they arrive in is not the one they want to get to but rather the one they want to get out of as quickly as possible.”

The Malta Independent (MT) /

Solidarity is not a choice

For many EU countries solidarity with the Mediterranean states is nothing but a catchphrase, The Malta Independent complains:

“In truth there are only a handful of countries who always offer to pitch in. The rest seem to be happily ignoring the problem. This sets a dangerous precedent as if there is a major issue in any country, what is to stop other countries from not helping them. If solidarity is seen as a choice, then that weakens the idea of the EU. Choosing solidarity is not solidarity at all, and could result in unforeseen repercussions against those countries who are choosing to sit back and do nothing. People are dying in the Mediterranean. Libya is not as safe as the governments say. Europe needs to find a solution. ”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Europe's policy of death

The Netherlands must take more responsibility sociologist and philosopher Willem Schinkel demands in NRC Handelsblad:

“The German-Jewish philosopher Walter Benjamin described fascism as the mobilisation of the masses without regard for the economic production conditions. This is the Europe that is emerging: everywhere we see attempts to protect the 'true people' from the supposedly alien migrants, as if they were the cause of the growing inequality. ... Salvini and his supporters also make clear that others can die for the sake of Italy's 'pride'. ... It's time to end this policy. The migration across the Mediterranean needs to be regulated. ... As long as the Dutch governnment fails to put such measures on the agenda it will be complicit in the neo-colonial policy of the death of thousands of people at sea.”

Tygodnik Powszechny (PL) /

Perhaps the pope can convert Salvini

Pope Francis celebrated a mass with former boat refugees and sea rescuers at St. Peter's Basilica on Monday. Tygodnik Powszechny sees this as a gesture that inspires hope:

“In the last few weeks Italian border guards and the Italian navy have rescued dozens of migrants from the sea almost daily. ... But when the ships of NGOs do the same, the Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini sounds the alarm, tries to block access to Italian ports, deploys his customs officials and gives orders for the captains of the rescue ships to be handcuffed. All this takes place under the pretext of 'defending the sacred borders of the Italian state'. ... So it seems that the pope couldn't have chosen a better moment to make his voice heard.”

O Jornal Económico (PT) /

See integration as a chance

A regulated refugee admission and integration programme is the key to solving the problem, the migration expert Manuela Niza Ribeiro writes in Jornal Económico:

“Working out a common plan and a structured approach to the refugee crisis could turn a risk into an opportunity - especially in the eyes of the public. Conflicts can only be prevented through integration. But the integration process must always come from both sides and be based on mutual respect, without false and perverse paternalism, which stands in the way of a beneficial coexistence.”

Gazeta Wyborcza (PL) /

Refugees as barganing chips

Europe would rather support dictators than refugees, Gazeta Wyborcza concludes:

“The less democratic a government is, the less it wants to get rid of the refugees who are stranded on its territory. Egypt recently began trying to attract thousands of migrants from the Gaza Strip - in order to secure a better bargaining position. This situation will continue as long as we prefer to pay to keep refugees as far away as possible instead of investing in them and allowing them to participate in the development of our economy.”

Le Monde (FR) /

North Africa must not become a buffer zone

Like Europe, North Africa is also facing an important decision with respect to the refugee crisis, the Moroccan sociologist Mehdi Alioua writes in Le Monde:

“Europe must choose between Carola Rackete and Salvini. The African states of the Mediterranean and Sahel must likewise decide whether they want to develop a genuine African migration policy or whether they will go along with the European strategy of erecting a border. The danger of becoming neither a European nor an African buffer zone but instead a place where post-colonial mercenaries beat up and detain refugees and force them to flee via dangerous routes is real. We see this on a daily basis in Libya.”

Die Welt (DE) /

Frontex must take over

After days stranded at sea in the Mediterranean, 65 refugees on board the rescue ship Alan Kurdi were allowed to disembark in Malta. The daily Die Welt regards the fact that the Alan Kurdi first set course for Lampedusa as a provocation:

“The refugees were taken on board in the search and rescue zone, which is under the jurisdiction of the Libyan coastguard. The maritime rescue coordination centre had offered the Alan Kurdi Zawiya as a 'safe harbour'. But the ship of the Regensburg-based aid organisation Sea-Eye headed for Lampedusa all the same. While the crew wishes to save human lives, it is at the same time determined to wage open war on Italy's populist interior minister. It is high time for the job of patrolling the seas, saving lives and establishing hotspots where people can be taken for their cases to be examined to be left to the European border authority Frontex.”