Germany suspends voluntary migrant intake plan with Italy

AFP - [email protected]
Germany suspends voluntary migrant intake plan with Italy
Germany's Office for Migration in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Jens Kalaene

Germany said Wednesday it has stopped taking in migrants from Italy under a European voluntary solidarity plan, in what could shape up to be a new standoff over asylum seekers in the bloc.


The voluntary scheme is aimed at easing pressure on EU border nations that are often the first port of call for migrants.

Under the mechanism, Germany was due to receive 3,500 asylum seekers who had first sought refuge in Italy. But only 1,700 have reached Germany before Berlin decided to pause the intake.

"Given the currently high migratory pressure on Germany, the ongoing suspension of Dublin transfers by some member states, including Italy, reinforces the major challenges Germany is currently facing in terms of its reception and accommodation capacity," said a spokesman for the interior ministry.

READ ALSO: Influx of asylum seekers to German unsustainable: CDU deputy head

As a result, Berlin had informed Italy of its decision to "postpone until further notice" its intake of migrants.

Under the so-called Dublin procedure, irregular migrants should be registered in the EU country they first enter. Should they head to another nation in the bloc, they could be returned to their EU first port of call.

But Mediterranean countries like Italy have argued that the rules place an excessive burden on border nations, particularly since new arrivals often want to move on and live in other EU countries.


Germany took in over a million asylum seekers, mainly from Syria and Iraq,between 2015-2016 before the arrival numbers began falling sharply. But over the last year, authorities have recorded a big uptick in arrivals again.

Latest numbers provided by federal police show 15,100 irregular migrants arriving in August, up 40 percent from July's 10,714.

Migrant centres 'full'

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, whose far-right party won elections a year ago on a promise to stop mass migration, said Wednesday she was not surprised by Berlin's decision.

Her government temporarily suspended the Dublin rules in December, pointing to "purely technical reasons" linked to over-worked reception centres, or hotspots.

"The issue of relocation is secondary," she said in an interview to be broadcast later Wednesday.

"The question... is stopping arrivals into Italy. I still don't see any concrete answers," she said according to excerpts published by Italian news agencies and confirmed by her office.

She repeated her call for more EU help, adding: "Our hotspots are full."


The number of migrants arriving in Italy after crossing on boats from North Africa has surged this year, at almost 124,000 since January -- up from 65,500 during the same period in 2022, according to government data.

Many land on the island of Lampedusa, where the reception centre on Wednesday warned it was reaching critical capacity.

The Italian Red Cross, which has run the hotspot since June, said more than 100 landings within a few hours left it hosting more than 6,000 people in a facility built for fewer than 400.

"The situation is difficult," the charity said, warning of the risk of passing a "critical threshold".


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