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EU Sorts Migrant Plan


FILE: Migrants arrive with a dinghy accompanied by a Frontex vessel at the village of Skala Sikaminias, on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey. Taken Feb. 28, 2020.

The European Commission will try to head off bitter new splits between EU member states over immigration reform, with a plan unveiled Monday to speed the relocation of refugees.

on Monday the EU executive unveiled a 20-point plan it wants them to back.

The plan seeks to give new impetus to an agreement to relocate 8,000 arrivals per year around Europe, and improve coordination with migrants' home countries to speed returns of those refused asylum.

Under that agreement, member states were to take in 8,000 would-be refugees rescued on beaches or in the sea off southern member states on the Mediterranean.

On Friday, EU interior ministers will hold crisis talks to head off the dispute.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said the plan would seek to accelerate the implementation of an existing plan agreed by 12 EU members in June.

Under that agreement, member states were to take in 8,000 would-be refugees rescued on beaches or in the sea off southern member states on the Mediterranean.

But the dispute between France and Italy has already threatened the agreement, itself a stop-gap to take the edge of the crisis while member states argue about deeper reform.

"Today the focus on the central Med, where the latest events confirm that this situation is not sustainable," Johansson warned, referring to the seas between Libya and Italy.

The commissioner said that this dangerous sea route had seen a record 90,000 irregular crossings this year, half as many again as in 2021, most of them brought illegally by smuggling networks.

France has suspended an offer to welcome 3,500 migrants under the plan, after Rome refused to allow the Ocean Viking, a Norwegian-flagged NGO rescue ship, to land in Italy.

But Italy's interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi, gave the EU plan a cautious welcome, noting the importance of reviving the June plan to share out immigrants.

"Its concrete application, up to now, has given absolutely insufficient results for Italy," he said.

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