“The European Union (EU) has two possibilities: either it suffers the consequences of the migrant flow or it tries to control it,” Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said at a Rome seminar.
“It (the EU) can control it if it acts in a united way and if it recognizes that rules thought up a quarter of a century ago are no longer suitable for the flows we are seeing today.”
Italy wants a review of the Dublin convention's clause which requires asylum-seekers coming into the EU to be processed in their country of arrival, a rule Rome regards as unsustainable given that most migrants arrive by crossing the Mediterranean to Italy or Greece from North Africa or Turkey.
More than 320,000 asylum-seekers and other migrants have landed in Italy since the start of 2014. But a lack of systematic controls following their arrival means more than three quarters of them are able to continue their journeys to preferred destinations in northern Europe without being registered in Italy.
Italy is now under intense pressure from its EU partners to start processing all the newly arrived boat people – finger-printing them forcibly if necessary – and the flow of migrants has brought the Schengen system of open borders within the bloc to the brink of collapse.
“Last year, 850,000 migrants arrived in Greece. Under the Dublin accords it is Greece that should have taken them in,” Gentiloni said. “Everyone knows that is not possible, that that is not what happened and yet, despite that, there is still this insistence that the Dublin rules should be respected.
“Europe has to recognize this is a medium to long-term issue we are facing and that it has to be addressed by the 28 member states together.”
Gentiloni also called on EU governments to accelerate moves to agree on a common list of countries deemed safe enough for migrants originating there to be repatriated.
“The distinction between Afghanistan, considered safe (by some European states), and Eritrea, which is not, is rather weak and that requires a decision at European level,” the minister said.