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    Germany calls for 'coalition of the willing' to take in migrants rescued from Mediterranean

11:37 16 July 2019 Author :  

Germany has called for a “coalition of the willing” to take in migrants rescued while attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.

Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, called for a core group of European Union countries to agree a scheme without waiting for approval from the rest of the bloc.

“We need a coalition of the willing for a binding quota system,” he said in an interview with a German regional newspaper group at the weekend. 

"We must now go ahead with the member states that are ready to accept refugees. The others remain invited to participate.”

Germany was “always prepared to take its share of the migrants”, he added.

Mr Maas’ comments comes amid growing concern over the issue. At least 682 migrants have drowned attempting to cross the Mediterranean so far this year, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), and at least 53 were killed in an air strike on a detention camp in Libya earlier this month.

EU justice and interior ministers are due to hold talks on the issue this week, but they will meet against the backdrop of a diplomatic stand-off over Italy’s refusal to allow migrant rescue ships to enter its harbours.

<span>Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, called for a "coalition of the willing" to take in the migrants</span> <span>Credit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP </span>
Heiko Maas, the German foreign minister, called for a "coalition of the willing" to take in the migrantsCredit: LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP

Mr Maas’ proposals came under fire from Sebastian Kurz, the former Austrian chancellor, who accused him of giving false hope to migrants.

“We must not send out false signals and must absolutely prevent any more people risking their lives in the dangerous passage across the Mediterranean,” Mr Kurz said.

Italy countered with its own proposals to deal with the problem by deterring migrants from attempting the crossing.

Enzo Moavero Milanesi, the Italian foreign minister, called on Sunday for specially chartered flights to bypass the Mediterranean altogether.

Under the Italian proposals, the EU would decide migrants’ asylum claims in north Africa and fly those granted refugee status to be flown to Europe.

“Those who have the right to asylum must be able to travel in dignified conditions, not in the hands of criminals,” Mr Milanesi told Corriere della Sera newspaper.

“Migrants are not looking for Italian, Greek or Maltese shores. They are looking for Europe. Therefore we must find a solution within a European framework.”

Operation Triton, the EU’s rescue mission, ended last year, leaving only ships manned by volunteer organisations to rescue migrants from drowning.

But Italy has refused to allow the volunteer ships to land at its ports even if other EU states agree to take the migrants on board.

Matteo Salvini, the hardline Italian interior minister, has rejected a formal request from Germany to open its ports

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