4 EU members say they can’t take so many migrant arrivals

Nov 11, 2022, 10:00 PM | Updated: Nov 12, 2022, 12:05 pm
Migrants line up to be checked by Italian authorities at the Italian French border of Ventimiglia, ...

Migrants line up to be checked by Italian authorities at the Italian French border of Ventimiglia, Italy, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2022. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

(Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

              Migrants disembark from the German humanitarian ship Rise Above docked in the southern Italian port town of Reggio Calabria, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.German humanitarian group Mission Lifeline said its ship docked in southern Italy early Tuesday and disembarked the 89 people it had rescued in the central Mediterranean. (AP Photo/Valeria Ferraro)
            
              Some of the migrants rescued from the sea are seen on board of the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking cruising in the Mediterranean Sea, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The SOS Mediterranee humanitarian group said the Norwegian-flagged ship is heading toward the French island of Corsica in hopes that France will offer its 234 passengers a safe port, after Italy backed down and allowed migrants from three other rescue ships to disembark on Italian soil. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)
            
              Some of the migrants rescued from the sea are seen on board of the humanitarian ship Ocean Viking cruising in the Mediterranean Sea, Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2022. The SOS Mediterranee humanitarian group said the Norwegian-flagged ship is heading toward the French island of Corsica in hopes that France will offer its 234 passengers a safe port, after Italy backed down and allowed migrants from three other rescue ships to disembark on Italian soil. (AP Photo/Vincenzo Circosta)

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Four Mediterranean European Union nations have issued a joint statement on a dispute over a deal for Europe to jointly help asylum-seekers.

In their statement Saturday, Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus repeated their positions that they “cannot subscribe to the notion that countries of first entry are the only possible European landing spots for illegal immigrants.” They added that the number of migrants taken in by other EU member states “only represents a very small fraction of the actual number of irregular arrivals.”

The four countries condemned the operations of private charity vessels “acting in total autonomy from the competent state authorities” to save hundreds of migrants rescued at sea.

Italy’s new far-right-led government was locked in a weekslong standoff with humanitarian groups that rescue migrants in the central Mediterranean Sea. It argued that the countries whose flag the ships fly should take in the migrants, not Italy, a position vehemently opposed by humanitarian groups, legal experts and human rights activists.

After ignoring repeated requests for a safe port, Italy directed three ships with migrants to ports in southern Italy, initially selecting for disembarkation only those deemed vulnerable, including minors and those with medical conditions. Eventually all were allowed to enter Italy. But a fourth ship, the Ocean Viking, remained in international waters and eventually made its way toward France after nearly three weeks at sea, finally docking Friday at the port of Toulon.

The Ocean Viking episode led to a diplomatic flap between Italy and France, after Italy’s new prime minister, Giorgia Meloni, thanked Paris for accepting the migrants before France had agreed to do so.

French Interior Minister Gerard Darmanin then announced France’s withdrawal from a “solidarity” mechanism approved in June to reduce the pressure on front-line countries such as Greece, Italy and Spain by taking in asylum-seekers. French officials also announced new border checks with Italy.

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4 EU members say they can’t take so many migrant arrivals