Migrant crisis: EU summit divided amid migration row

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Greece says emergency action is necessary to “decongest” some of its islands (Reuters image)

A key European Union summit may end without a deal to resolve a row over ways to tackle irregular migration.

Italy – the entry point of thousands of migrants, mainly from Africa – says it will veto a joint statement over the entire agenda if no solution is found.

Leaders are discussing the sticking point over dinner.

Italy wants other countries to share the burden. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the issue could be a defining moment for the EU.

Mrs Merkel is under pressure to come up with a deal to prevent new arrivals.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, from her Bavarian coalition partner the CSU, has given her until this weekend. Otherwise he has said he will start turning away migrants from the border in his home state.

The migrant flows also include refugees fleeing the Syrian war and other conflicts, urgently seeking asylum.

It is not a crisis on the scale of 2015, when thousands were coming ashore daily on the Greek islands. The European Council – the EU’s strategic leadership – says the numbers illegally entering the EU have dropped 96% since their peak in October 2015.

But this month’s tensions over migrant rescue ships barred from entry to Italian ports – most recently the German charity ship Lifeline – have put the issue firmly back in the EU spotlight.

The Lifeline was only allowed to dock in Malta after intense diplomacy among several EU states, who each agreed to take a share of the migrants on board. Malta said that Norway had now also agreed to take some migrants from the Lifeline.

The Dublin principle – that asylum seekers should stay in the country where they enter the EU – has broken down. Italy and Greece, who receive the most, are demanding that their neighbours share the burden. (Excerpts from BBC)

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