EU Officials Meeting to Address Europe’s Migrant Crisis

As refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan and other countries stream into Europe, government officials are trying to find ways to handle the influx. The topic became more urgent with the discovery of the bodies of 71 migrants in an abandoned truck in Austria and more than 100 people who drowned off the coast of Libya.

While some countries object to taking in large numbers of refugees, Germany has been very proactive and announced that it expects to shelter up to 800,000 people seeking asylum. Angela Merkel has faced harsh criticism from Germany’s far right for her proactive stance on immigration. She was booed and called a “traitor” when she visited a shelter in Heidenau.

The efforts of countries such as Germany and France to take in asylum seekers is complicated by the Dublin Regulation which states that those seeking asylum must apply for protection in the first EU country they reach. This placed enormous pressure on Greece and Italy because of their proximity to Africa and the Middle East, and large numbers of refugees are streaming to Hungary trying to get there before the country completes its wall to keep them out.

With increasing public pressure on government officials about the large number of migrants and asylum seekers, and the dangers of their passage, Germany, Britain, and France made a joint call for an urgent meeting of the EU’s interior and justice ministers. Luxembourg holds the revolving presidency of the EU and responded quickly by scheduling a meeting for September 14 in Brussels.

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The interior ministers of these three countries said that the most urgent need is to agree on the establishment of welcome centers in Italy and Greece. These centers will feed and screen asylum seekers and migrants and also decide who would be allowed to remain as a legal refugee.

Also, the ministers of the EU need to agree on a list of “safe countries of origin.” People from these countries would be considered migrants instead of refugees and could then be sent home.

It is critical to address these issues, since the wars and global crises leading to the stream of refugees show no sign of abating anytime soon.