Migrants, Weber (EPP): «Right to help. But our word must be kept. Italy left alone “

from Francesca Basso

The group leader in the European Parliament: “If you can’t distinguish between illegal migrants and asylum seekers and refugees, then you can’t help those in real need”

Brussels – “I think it is necessary, first of all, to protect borders and a state must be able to decide who arrives and who is not welcome in the EU. This is easy enough on the land border. There is a physical boundary there, a fence can also be built as needed. It is very difficult in the case of a maritime border, as we see in the Mediterranean, the Aegean or the Turkish sea ». German Manfred Weber is president of the EPP and group leader in the EU Parliament: “If you can’t distinguish between illegal migrants and asylum seekers and refugees, then you can’t help those in real need”. For Weber «this crisis between Italy, France and Germany it must be a bell for the Czech presidency to finalize the agreement on the pact for migration and asylum: a common solution must be found ”.

Is there a migration emergency in the Mediterranean?
“Yes, there is a migration emergency, but also in the rest of the European Union because the numbers are growing rapidly. On the Mediterranean route we have an increase of about 80% compared to last year’s data and in the rest of the EU we now have an additional migratory flow from the East represented by Ukrainian refugees. Across the EU there is a special worrying situation. And that is why I expect the EU as a whole to find an answer. So it is not a question that concerns a single country ».

How do you read the ongoing tensions between Italy and France over the Ocean Viking affair?
“Countries like France and Germany

they promised the countries of the South a voluntary relocation program. They promised that they would take over 8,000 refugees from Italy and other countries to help them, because they are under pressure as they are a border line. But only 117 people were relocated and of these France took 38: these are the figures received by the Commission. Paris and Berlin have not kept their commitment. But we should keep our promises: this is the starting point for all European solutions. Instead Italy has been left alone in recent years and also this year. I invite France and Germany to keep their promise ».

France accuses Italy of not respecting international laws on rescues at sea. Agree?
“It is essential that Europe does not lose its base of values. The right to asylum is one of the fundamental principles for which those who fight for democracy, for freedom, for human rights, on a global level, must see the EU as a safe haven. Like who is now fleeing Iran. Obviously we have to save people at sea if they are looking for safety. And I am sure that all the border guards who are there in the Mediterranean, from the Italian ones to Frontex, from the Maltese to the Greeks and the Spanish, are trying their best to keep these principles alive ”.

Italy wants to strengthen measures to counter the activities of NGO ships, the German ambassador to Italy praised their activity, the Commission said there is a clear legal obligation to save life at sea, without distinction between ships. What is the position of the EPP?

“I fully agree with the idea that it doesn’t matter whether it’s a private ship or a state border guard: first of all, it’s important to save lives. But the question is: who sent off the boats of the migrants being rescued? The letter from Italy, Greece, Malta and Cyprus
it makes us understand that they are once again alone. There is a second aspect: the great problem of the Mediterranean is the traffickers of human beings. We must work to block them at the European level. Many EU countries are adopting a restrictive approach to migration: Denmark, Sweden and now Great Britain. However, this must be implemented not against migrants, but against traffickers ”.

What do you think of the Italian request for a code of conduct for NGO ships?
«I like it very much, I am in favor of a common approach on how to manage rescue mechanisms and the approach to rescue in the Mediterranean. It might help us organize things better. And it is clear that the Member State must be in command ”.

What are the obstacles to relocation foreseen by the voluntary solidarity mechanism?
“It’s a question of political will. And if in France and Germany the political will to accept more migrants from Italy is very low, then the Italian government should not be blamed for trying to control new arrivals as much as possible. About 50% of all migrants arriving in the Mediterranean and in Italy are not “classic” refugees fleeing a war or seeking asylum. They are illegal immigrants who are looking for work and not protection. That’s why we have to be honest: this has nothing to do with the right of asylum ».

November 14, 2022 (change November 14, 2022 | 22:13)

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Migrants, Weber (EPP): «Right to help. But our word must be kept. Italy left alone ”

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