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Italy Received 85,000 Migrants in 1st Half of 2017, Compared to 71,000 in 2016. EU Still Reluctant to Solve Crisis

The UN Migration Agency claims 1,530 migrants and refugees died crossing the Mediterranean in 2017. PHOTO: AFP

By  Vincent Van Den Born | 6 July 2017

THE OLD CONTINENT — The number of migrants crossing the Mediterranean is up again. Italy now has to cope with 85.000 people landing on its shores in the first six months of 2017, up from 71.000 in the entire year 2016. In response, the European Commission has published an action plan, with the Commission’s First Vice President, Frans Timmermans, feeling the need to “lower expectations” by pointing out that the Commission is not:

coming out with a silver bullet, that there’s one measure that’s going to solve all this. But it would already make a world of difference if member states would just do what they agreed before.

What exactly Timmermans is referring to, is unclear. According to Politico his frustration was aimed at those Eastern European EU member states who have refused to accept refugees allocated under an EU relocation program. For Timmermans:

the levels with which Italy is faced now means that everybody needs to do their part in this across Europe. This is solidarity that Italy deserves.

But if relocation of migrants within Europe is what Timmermans sees as ‘making a world of difference’, the outlook is grim. Not only are EU-member states like Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Austria unlikely to agree to the scheme, having already made their objections crystal clear, strongarming them seems to have the opposite effect, and it is unclear whether Timmermans can really afford a confrontation. The political constellation in Eastern Europe is simply unfavourable. Which leaves the question of whether the EU’s relocation program is a solution to the problem in the first place. […]

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