The migration issue is back again – big time – for EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
How to deal with the many undocumented migrants – mainly Africans – who continue to risk their lives in the Mediterranean, hoping to start new lives in the EU? It will be the main topic at this summit.
The migrants being discussed also includes refugees trying to escape the Syrian war and other conflicts in their domain, while urgently seeking asylum.
It is not a crisis on the scale of 2015, when thousands were coming ashore daily on the Greek islands. The European Council – the EU’s strategic leadership – says the numbers illegally entering the EU have dropped 96% since their peak in October 2015.
There’s been a buildup of tension over migrant issue this month and has seen leaders lash out at each other.
The Lifeline was only allowed to dock in Malta after intense diplomacy among several EU states, who agreed to share out the migrants, to ease Malta’s burden.
Earlier, Italy and Malta had rejected to open their ports to Aquarius which was a migrant rescue ship and action which was strongly rebuked by France’s President before Spain allowed the ship to dock within its borders.
The Dublin principle – that asylum seekers should stay in the country where they enter the EU – is not working. Italy and Greece, receiving the most, demand that their neighbours share the burden.
European Council President Donald Tusk told the leaders in his pre-summit letter “the stakes are very high and time is short” .
He warned that the EU’s problems with migration policy were giving ammunition to populists, who “offer simple answers to the most complicated questions”.