Eu does not want to change refugee policy

Eu does not want to change refugee policy

This was made clear at the meeting of EU interior ministers in luxembourg. The country in which a refugee reaches the EU remains responsible for the asylum procedure and accommodation. EU states, however, want to support italy with european border guards from frontex in rescuing refugees from distress at sea. EU expert group to explore further assistance for mediterranean countries.

German interior minister hans-peter friedrich (CSU) stressed that the so-called dublin II regulation would "of course" be maintained. He defended the german commitment. "Germany is the country that takes in the most refugees in europe."

According to statistics, there were around 945 asylum seekers per million inhabitants in germany in 2012, compared with only 260 in italy. "This shows that the claims that italy is overburdened with refugees are not true," the minister stressed. In this statistic, however, other countries such as sweden or austria are far ahead of the pack.

The debate proceeded with some sharp words. Friedrich rejected criticism from the president of the european parliament, martin schulz (SPD). His call for germany to do more shows a "lack of expertise". In the debate on poverty immigration, EU justice commissioner viviane reding attested to the minister’s "bierzelt" statements. Friedrich countered: "I’m not quite sure yet whether this problem and this issue has reached her [reding], but we are working on it."

Italy asked partners for help in luxembourg. "We demand that europe give us a strong hand to save human lives," said italy’s interior minister angelino alfano.

EU commissioner malmstrom appealed to EU states to share responsibility better. Currently, almost the entire burden falls on six or seven of the 28 states. "Many can do more," malmstrom stressed. "Words must now be followed by action."All states agree that frontex must be deployed in a better way, malmstrom said after the meeting.

The EU also wants to help italy with a task force to deal with the flow of refugees in the mediterranean sea. According to friedrich, the group of experts should explore financial aid, support for border protection and cooperation with north african countries. "We want and need to improve rescue operations in the mediterranean sea. (…) boats must be found better and faster and it must be ensured that these boats do not leave africa in the first place," said friedrich. The task force should begin its work as soon as possible.

Following complaints from germany and other countries about so-called poverty immigration, the eu commission presented an action plan. According to the report, the EU wants to help countries combat marriages of convenience and make it easier to identify the residences of immigrants. Money from the european social fund is to be invested more intensively in social integration and the fight against poverty from january 2014 onwards.

Debate triggered by complaints from german communities about increasing numbers of immigrants from romania and bulgaria applying for social benefits in germany. Mostly members of the roma minority.

Friedrich called on the EU to take tough action against this: "it is not acceptable that freedom of movement is abused in such a way that people change countries just because they want to receive higher welfare benefits."The minister demanded clarification of "whether we can send back those who come to germany to cheat on their benefits and impose a re-entry ban on them."

EU commission considers germany’s concerns unfounded. EU interior commissioner malmstrom spoke in luxembourg of partly "greatly exaggerated" concerns.

Bulgaria and romania joined the EU in 2007. From 2014, both countries will have full freedom of movement for workers in the EU. Some people – like friedrich – fear that many more people from these countries will come to germany and put a strain on the social security system. According to statistics, the number of job-seeking welfare recipients from these countries increased significantly in several cities between 2011 and 2012 – in berlin by 38.8 percent, in munich by almost 60 percent.

Grunen leader claudia roth accused friedrich of populism. The CSU politician is relying on "the-boat-is-full rhetoric" and is now also running a "campaign of asylum abuse," roth told the dpa news agency in berlin. She called for a fundamental change in european refugee policy.

Meanwhile, the captain of the refugee boat that sank off lampedusa was arrested in italy. The 35-year-old tunisian is being investigated for multiple counts of premeditated manslaughter and havarie, among other things, italian media reported on tuesday, citing the public prosecutor’s office. The salvage operations off the coast of the italian mediterranean island continued. Divers brought 43 more bodies ashore by tuesday afternoon, bringing the total number of victims to 274.

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