French Interior Minister G?rald Darmanin travelled to Rome on Monday (18 September) to “help Italy hold its border” as the Italian island of Lampedusa faces a major influx of migrants.
“There can be no message given to people who come to our shores that they will be welcomed whatever happens,” said Darmanin, who will meet his Italian counterpart on Monday afternoon.
“France […] will help Italy to hold its external border,” he added on radio Europe 1 and broadcaster CNews on Monday morning.
Asked whether France was prepared to take in some of the migrants – as per Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s request to EU member states – Darmanin said that “France is not preparing to do so”.
“We must protect the European Union’s external borders and, above all, immediately look at asylum applications,” he said.
As asylum applications must be made “at the border”, those who are not eligible for asylum “must return immediately to their countries of origin”, he added. This is the case for “60% [of migrants who] come from countries such as C?te d’Ivoire, Guinea and Gambia”, where “there is no humanitarian issue”.
“[But] if there are asylum seekers who are eligible for asylum, who are persecuted for political reasons, they are obviously refugees. And in that case, France […], as it has always done, can welcome [those] people,” Darmanin said.
The United Nations migration agency reported that last week, between Monday and Wednesday, around 8,500 people arrived in Lampedusa – more than the island’s population – on board 199 boats.
Faced with the tension generated by this situation in terms of the reception of migrants, the Italian Prime Minister called for European solidarity. On Sunday from Lampedusa, von der Leyen presented a package of 10 measures designed to respond to the urgency of the situation.
[Edited by Benjamin Fox/Nathalie Weatherald]
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