Published On: Wed, Aug 14th, 2019

Emmanuel Macron urged to take action over EU migrant crisis – ‘Stop the suffering!’ | World | News

Some EU states have agreed to a new Franco-German “solidarity mechanism” to allocate migrants across the bloc, but the initiative faces resistance from Italy’s populist leaders. Mr Macron “must act on the migrant question” and seek ways to “improve the management of migration flows,” the right-wing lawmaker told France Info radio. France, as a “Euro-Mediterranean power, must be the one to lead this initiative,” he said, as he denounced the “scandalous humanitarian situation” in the Mediterranean.  

Mr Macron must “put a stop to migrant suffering,” Mr Larrivé insisted, before accusing EU states of “standing idly by” while migrants and refugees risk their lives to reach Europe. 

“It is the international community’s duty to save lives,” he added, as he called for temporary reception centres to be set up along the bloc’s southern shores. 

More than 800 people have died or gone missing while crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe’s shores since January, according to Mr Larrivé. 

His plea for action comes amid the latest migrant standoff in Mediterranean.

More than 500 migrants and refugees are currently in limbo, as the two humanitarian ships that rescued them off the coast of Libya in recent days continue to search for a safe port willing to take them in.   

Around 350 of the migrants, who hail mostly from Africa, are stranded on the Ocean Viking, a rescue vessel operated by the French charities SOS Méditerranée and Médecins Sans Frontières.

The other 150 are on board the Open Arms, a Spanish rescue boat. 

The UN’s refugee agency has called for all migrants to be allowed to disembark in a safe port, warning of a race against the clock as bad weather looms. 

“It is a race against time,” said Vincent Cochetel, the UNHCR’s special envoy for the central Mediterranean. 

“Storms are expected and conditions will only get worse. To leave people who have fled war and violence in Libya in the high seas in this weather will only inflict more suffering,” he added. 

Charity-run rescue vessels should be praised for saving lives, not “stigmatised and criminalised,” the UNHCR said.

Such standoffs have become common since last June, after Italy banned humanitarian ships carrying migrants from entering its ports in a controversial policy forged by interior minister Matteo Salvini, leader of the anti-immigrant, far-right League party. 

Mr Salvini and the populist coalition government have repeatedly suggested that Tunisian and Libyan ports should be considered safe, questioning why migrants should be brought to Italy, Malta, or any other frontline EU state. 

The Italian conservative said on Tuesday that the two boats were not Rome’s problem. 

“I am at work in the ministry this morning to prevent more than 500 migrants from disembarking from two NGO boats, one French and one Spanish,” Mr Salvini wrote on Facebook. 

“I will let you know how this ends. I will not give up.” 

Earlier this month, Mr Salvini introduced a new law hiking fines for rescue ships that enter Italian waters without authorisation to up to 1 million euros (£900,000). 

It also provides for the arrest of captains who ignore orders to stay away and calls on naval authorities to seize their boats automatically. 

His tough immigration policies have dramatically reduced the number of people reaching Italy by sea – just 4,265 migrants have arrived so far this year, down nearly 80 percent on the same period last year. 

In June, some 14 European states agreed to a new “solidarity mechanism” proposed by Germany and France to fairly allocate migrants across the bloc, but its implementation has proven difficult because of Italy’s blunt refusal to cooperate. 

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