‘Axis of the Willing’ Seeks Hard-Line E.U. Asylum Shift
Immigration hard-liners in Germany, Austria and Italy are talking of an “axis of the willing.” The axis appears to be a push for tough anti-migration policies in the E.U.
The notion was first floated by Sebastian Kurz, Austria’s right-wing chancellor, as he seeks to reject plans to share asylum seekers around the E.U. Kurz is instead pushing an arrangement that includes fringe ideas such as offshore processing centers for asylum seekers outside the E.U. and a stepped-up campaign of deportations.
The “axis of the willing” received backing from Germany’s conservative interior minister, Horst Seehofer. Seehofer, whose Bavarian conservatives are the sister party to Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats, has publicly challenged the chancellor.
Seehofer has proposed turning back refugees who are already registered in other European countries, as part of a “master plan” on curbing irregular migration.
Merkel has insisted she wants a “solution for all of Europe” rather than one that works only for some countries. E.U. countries face a deadline of the end of June for reform to the asylum system.
Salvini Attacks on Macron Endanger France-Italy Leaders Meeting
Italy has stepped up its war of words with France over Mediterranean rescues. A meeting between France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, and Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, is now in doubt.
Italy’s new interior minister, Matteo Salvini, berated Macron by name in the Italian senate after the latter criticized Italy’s refusal of a safe port for a rescue ship.
Salvini – in theory the junior partner in the Italian coalition – has taken the lead by picking a fight with European allies over Mediterranean migrant rescues.
“So I ask President Macron to pass from words to action and tomorrow morning, welcome the 9,000 France promised to welcome as a sign of concrete generosity and not just words,” Salvini said.
Some 41 people rescued at sea by the U.S. navy ship Trenton face uncertainty as a nearby NGO rescue ship declined to take them aboard. Sea-Watch said it has been refused a safe port by Italy so it could not take the rescued migrants.
Lebanon Minister Steps Up Attacks on UNHCR Over Syrian Returnees
Lebanon has stepped up its attacks on the U.N. Refugee Agency. Foreign minister Gibran Bassil has accused UNHCR of discouraging Syrian refugees from going home.
The government in Lebanon has frozen renewals of residence permits to UNHCR staff. “It’s time to tell them enough. That’s it,” said Bassil during a trip to the border area with Syria. Bassil hopes to pressure the UNHCR into cooperating with a controversial plan to return large numbers of Syrians.
A UNHCR spokesperson in New York responded, “This directly impacts UNHCR’s ability to effectively carry out critical protection and solutions work in Lebanon. UNHCR hopes the decision of the Foreign Ministry will be reversed without delay.”
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