The Latest: UN refugee chief urges long-term EU solution
ROME (AP) — The Latest on Europe’s response to mass migration (all times local):
The United Nations’ refugee agency says it’s relieved that the latest Mediterranean Sea standoff over migrants is over, but is calling again for Europe to establish procedures for the proper disembarkation of people rescued while trying to reach the continent by water.
U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said in a statement issued in Geneva on Sunday that the episode involving 190 migrants who were rescued by an Italian coast guard ship on Aug. 16 “needs to be a wake-up call.”
After the Diciotti docked in Sicily, the Italian government refused to let any passengers who weren’t minors or needed medical help get off the ship. The remaining 140 migrants were allowed to leave early Sunday after Italy’s Catholic bishops assumed responsibility for 100 of them and Albania and Italy offered to take about 20 each.
Grandi said: “The Diciotti situation is now resolved, but what happens next time? We need a collaborative and reliable European approach towards persons rescued at sea.”
Germany’s interior minister says he is confident of reaching an agreement with Italy for that country to take back migrants who show up at the German-Austrian border after previously applying for asylum in Italy.
Germany has already reached similar agreements with Greece and Spain as it implements a domestic deal to defuse an internal political dispute over migration.
In June, German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer threatened to turn back previously registered migrants unilaterally at the German-Austrian border. Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted that Germany must first reach agreements with other countries.
Seehofer told ZDF television on Sunday he’s making good progress toward a deal with Italy. He said that, in return for Italy taking back previous asylum applicants, it would involve Germany taking in a similar number of migrants rescued at sea.
Ten days after they were rescued in the Mediterranean Sea, Italy has allowed all the migrants stuck on an Italian coast guard ship to disembark.
Early Sunday, 137 migrants left the Diciotti, stepping onto the dock at Catania, Sicily, where police photographed them for ID checks, a requirement for asylum-seekers.
Italy’s populist government had not let them leave the ship earlier, demanding that other European Union countries take them. Only Ireland did, pledging to take 20. Non-EU Albania will take 20, while Italian Catholic bishops said they would care for about 100.
On Aug. 16, the Diciotti’s crew rescued 190 migrants, most from Eritrea, from a smuggling boat. The others, including minors and ailing migrants, were allowed off earlier.
Italy has threatened economic reprisals against the EU for not helping it enough with migrants.