European Union member states will be able to set up migrant reception and processing centres and will be able to quickly return migrants to their country of origin if they are found to not be eligible for protection following an agreement signed at the latest EU Summit.
After a long and tense meeting that saw Italy nearly veto the whole thing, the leaders were able to settle on some conclusions they all agreed on.
“All EU Member States agree that vessels operating in the Mediterranean must respect the applicable laws and not obstruct operations of the Libya Coastguard. Clear and unequivocal wording justifying Malta actions,” said Joseph Muscat following the summit.
In #EUCO conclusions, all #EU Member States agree that vessels operating in the #Mediterranean must respect the applicable laws and not obstruct operations of #Libya Coastguard. Clear and unequivocal wording justifying #Malta actions -JM
— Joseph Muscat (@JosephMuscat_JM) June 29, 2018
However, he also told the Corporate Dispatch in the early hours of Friday morning that he felt the conclusions of the EU Summit represented “only some progress”. And critics are saying the agreements fail to set strong parameters regarding where exactly the migrant processing centres will be located, and how exactly ineligible migrants will be returned to their country.
The EU summit also agreed to some other measures to curb migration
Further investment in Turkey and North Africa to strengthen their border controls was put forward, as well as the idea of investing more in African countries to attempt to develop a better life so citizens wouldn’t need to leave.
They also agreed to attempt to stop the development of any new routes, be it by land or sea, into Europe, as well as adding internal measures within the European countries themselves to halt the movement of migrants.
Crucially, the new conclusions are based on a voluntary basis
The agreement calls on a number of useful measures for European leaders to manage a renewed swell of migration over the last few months that led to political spates between traditionally friendly countries. One measure calls on migrant rescue ships run by NGOs to abide by international law, and that they should not get involved in any Libyan coastguard operations.
Another calls on additional measures for EU member states to help stem migrants moving between EU countries after Germany specifically requested it
However, a major political takeaway is that a scheme introduced in 2015, at the height of the migration crisis, to introduce compulsory quotas to all EU member states to share migrants might now be retired in the face of the new ‘voluntary’ scheme – not least due to the lack of cooperation from countries like Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
There is a fear from many officials working in the migration sector that this voluntary agreement will not be as effective, with many countries just not opting to receive migrants most of the time.
The agreement comes after two standoffs between Italy and Malta that garnered international headlines
Both the Aquarius and the Lifeline had been caught in the middle of a spate between European leaders in the last few weeks, with nearly 900 combined migrants from both ships now set to be sent all over Europe. Nine countries agreed to assist Malta by taking the eligible migrants aboard the Lifeline in a last minute ad-hoc agreement.
The migrants aboard the Lifeline were processed in Malta yesterday. The 235 migrants on board come from around 16 different countries, with the majority, 154, from Sudan. The other countries included Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Libya.
There were 17 women aboard the vessel, alongside 62 children, including at least two girls.