May In Crisis Talks On EU Migrants


Theresa May is set for fraught talks with EU counterparts over the migrant crisis amid Italian threats to take unilateral action.

Home affairs ministers are meeting in Luxembourg to try to hammer out a joint strategy for dealing with the flow of people crossing the Mediterranean.

The European Commission has proposed redistributing around 60,000 Syrian and Eritrean asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other member states.

But the quota plan is being resisted by a number of countries in the borderless Schengen zone, while Britain has indicated it will use an opt-out to avoid taking part.

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi upped the ante yesterday by suggesting he could begin granting temporary residence permits, which would allow the arrivals free movement into other Schengen states.

In an interview with the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Mr Renzi insisted it was unacceptable that his country was having to bear the brunt of the migration.

“If the European Council chooses solidarity, then good. If it doesn’t we have a Plan B ready but that would be a wound inflicted on Europe,” he said.

Interior minister Angelino Alfano, due to attend the talks with Mrs May later, told Sky TG24: “I will say with great clarity: kids, either we do equal distribution of migrants in Europe, or we organise refugee camps in Libya, or we organise a serious policy of repatriation.”

A similar move by Rome in 2011 saw residence permits handed to around 25,000 Tunisian asylum seekers – prompting furious protests from Germany and France.

The UK has opted out of the Schengen arrangements and has indicated it will not engage in the quota scheme voluntarily.

A Downing Street spokeswoman said Mrs May would be reiterating the Government's position to counterparts.

The Prime Minister is also expected to discuss the issue with Mr Renzi when they meet in Milan tomorrow. No final decisions are likely before the European Council summit later this month.

The spokeswoman said: “We do not support relocation. We think our approach should be focused on not creating further pull factors for migrants."

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